Saturday, November 3, 2007

09/26 - Developer promises to preserve Jekyll

Date September 26, 2007
Section(s) Local News
The Brunswick News

A developer named to direct $441 million in redevelopment projects on Jekyll Island reassured island watchdogs Tuesday that his company would make sure the state-owned resort remains a place everyone can enjoy.

"We want to create an inclusive atmosphere and maintain environmental sensitivity," said Mercer Reynolds III, chief executive officer of Linger Longer Properties, at a meeting Tuesday morning to outline the plan.

"The island will remain affordable and accessible to all Georgians," he said.

On Monday, the Jekyll Island Authority board of directors said it had chosen Reynolds' company from among three finalists to head long-anticipated reconstruction of the island's aging beachfront motels, attractions and infrastructure.

Among other things, Linger Longer is proposing the construction of three new hotel properties offering a range of rental prices, averaging from $105 to $183 per night. Combined, the three new hotels would cost $162.5 million and add 725 new rooms to the island.

Additionally, Reynolds' company is proposing 160 time-share condominium units and 227 vacation cottage units at a total cost of $122 million; a new convention center to replace the existing one, with a first-phase cost of $25 million; a village center of shops and restaurants for $9.78 million; road, park and other infrastructure improvements estimated at $25.7 million; and parking garages totaling $6.4 million.

A $90 million replacement resort for the Buccaneer motel has already been announced by Texas developer Trammell Crow.

"Today is the first day of the revitalization process," declared Ben Porter, chairman of the Jekyll Island board, as he welcomed Linger Longer representatives and members of the public to Tuesday's meeting at the Jekyll Island Convention Center.

As expected, the proposal isn't without its critics.

Among particular concern to some Jekyll Island residents is the plan to build additional condominiums and rental units on the island.

Dan Egan of the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island said that visitors he's spoken with are overwhelmingly opposed to condominiums. In an unscientific survey recently done by his group, only 2 percent of respondents favored condos, he claimed.

"What was the empirical data used to determine the number of condos planned?" he asked.

Not all public comment was critical.

James Veal, owner of the Beachview Club, a hotel on the Jekyll beachfront, said he welcomes the improvements.

"This is one of the most well-designed plans I've ever seen," Veal said as he examined a three-dimensional model on display at the Jekyll Island Convention Center.

Tise Eyler, a former president of the Jekyll Island Citizen's Association, also said he's looking forward to seeing the project take shape.

"I like what I see," Eyler said.

Jim Langford, project engineer for Linger Longer, said the company is attempting to design a lodging mix that would attract many different types of visitors.

The condominiums will be two- and three-story buildings and will be built in a cottage style reminiscent of early Jekyll Island architecture, Langford said.

Pricing and lease terms remain to be worked out, he said, adding that none of the condos would be sold as permanent residences.

He cautioned the audience that not everything in the plan is definite.

"Everything is on the table, including the number of (condo) units," Langford said.

According to the Linger Longer plan, the present beachfront Jekyll Convention Center will be torn down to make way for the village center, tentatively named Horton Square. A new convention center would be built away from the beach, bordering Shell Road and the Great Dunes Golf Course.

Slugline Island project could be a model, manager says
Date September 26, 2007
Section(s) Local News
The Brunswick News

Jim Langford, project engineer for Linger Longer Communities who formerly worked for the non-profit Trust for Public Land, says the redevelopment of Jekyll Island could be a model for future projects nationwide.

"This is an opportunity to set standards for building practices and become a model for future developments," Langford said.

Planned measures include permeable surface parking for water runoff, rooftop gardens, additional greenspace and newly created wetlands.

Underground electrical utilities, geothermal heating and air conditioning systems and other measures are planned as well.

Developers plan to reroute the road that connects the Jekyll Island causeway with Beachview Drive so that it winds over a freshwater lake created to provide the base dirt for the new roadways.

The new lake and wetlands will also provide a method for rainwater to run off and be collected and reused, Langford said.

As for the new commercial construction, it "won't be overwhelming," Langford said.

"We're planning for 56,000-sqare feet of retail," he said, assuring residents that the architecture and amenities would reflect elements of Jekyll Island.

"An environmental discovery center will be located in the village," Langford said. "Jekyll (Island) can be a gateway for environmental education for the entire coast."

One step Langford said Linger Longer would take is to ensure that lighting in the village would reflect back away from the beach and dunes, which are sensitive loggerhead nesting sites.

Several attendees said they feared the new development would change the nature of the island and expressed concern over what the increased numbers of people would do to an aging infrastructure.

"We anticipate the water and sewer (systems) will be expanded as the project progresses," answered Mike Kelly, another Linger Longer representative.

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