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Wednesday, November 20, 2019
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In Dramatic Reversal, Jekyll Development Authority Will Pursue Two Projects

By Ted Carter, Staff


Feeling there’s renewed interest in gaining a private development partner, the Jekyll Island Development Authority plans to issue a new Request for Proposals Feb. 12 for hotel and retail development on the island.

Authority board members came away from a Jan. 20-21 session with commercial development representatives believing new scaled-back plans can attract one or more private-sector partners, said Eric Garvey, the authority’s chief spokesman. Forty-four firms took part in the session, including 26 hotel developers.

“We got very positive feedback,” Garvey said. “More than a dozen were ready to proceed to an RFP.”

So heartened were board members, they set a Feb. 12 date for issuance of a new Request for Proposals and a March 8 deadline for replies, Garvey said.

The plan for a new RFP follows the termination of developer Linger Longer from the project. Linger Longer planned to build hundreds of hotel rooms, condos, time-share units, upscale shops and parks but encountered financing difficulties. A concession by Linger Longer that it could not meet a 2012 completion deadline led the authority to scrap its deal with the developer.

The focus has since turned to finding one or more developers for a scaled-back project that would include an oceanfront full-service convention hotel of about 200 rooms and limited-service hotel of from 120 to 150 rooms, Garvey explained.

“We had enough interest last week that it looks like we’re going to do an RFP on both,” Garvey said of the two hotels.

The earlier plan specified a 350-roomconvention hotel.The hotels are to accompany a 125,000 square-foot convention center the authority intends to open by spring 2012; that project is to be covered by $50 million in bonds which will also fund road improvements in the development target area, as well as park construction.

The village would include lines of shops between a main street. About 30,000 sq ft. of ground-floor retail would be included and topped by one to two floors of office or residential space, according to Garvey.

He said work on the convention center and commercial village is to begin by October.

The convention center is to replace an aged meeting center and the retail village a 60-year-old strip center.

According to Garvey, The Jekyll Island Authority sees the convention complex, hotels and new retail as the best avenue for reviving the island’s sagging visitor numbers. “We’ve suffered declining visitation because of the aging hotel inventory.”

At its popular peak in the late 1980s, the state-owned island drew 2.1 million visitors. Last year about 1.5 million people visited the island, Garvey said.

Jekyll has 938 hotel rooms in total. “We’ve torn down the worst ones,” Garvey noted.

The recent opening of a 138-room Hampton Inn marked the first new hotel on the island since 1974.

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