Saturday, November 3, 2007

11/02 - Meetings to focus on Jekyll plans

The Florida Times-Union
November 2, 2007
Times-Union Correspondent

Georgians will get a chance to review and comment on Jekyll Island's proposed town square center at a series of public meetings to be held this month. The project is considered key to revitalizing the barrier island state park's aging hotels and amenities.

Each 2-hour session will include a presentation of the plan by developer Linger Longer Communities, followed by a question-and-answer session. All comments will be considered by Linger Longer and the Jekyll Island Authority, the island's governing body, in developing the final design.

The current plan proposes three new hotels, a new convention center, time-shares, beach cottage/condos, retail shops, restaurants, an environmental discovery center and a restored wetland park. The proposed site is currently occupied by the Jekyll Island Convention Center, parking lots and the island's retail center.

Meeting times and locations are:
- Nov. 14 - 9 a.m. at the Jekyll Island Convention Center; 3:30 p.m. at the Heritage Bank, 392 Charlie Smith Sr. Highway, St. Marys.
- Nov. 15 - 6:30 p.m. in Knox Gallery at the National Science Center's Fort Discovery, Augusta.
- Nov. 20 - 3:30 p.m. at the Cobb Galleria on Cobb Parkway and Galleria Drive, Atlanta.

Those unable to attend are invited to view the design online and offer comments at
Additional details on Jekyll Island as it exists today can be found at

This story can be found on at


The Florida Times-Union

October 26, 2007
Times-Union Correspondent

JEKYLL ISLAND - People looking for quick access to the ocean might find it a little more frustrating to get to Jekyll Island's main beach once the new town square center has been built. That's because the design, which proposes placing upscale condos, hotels and retail outlets next to seaside dunes, does not include a big, beachside parking lot.

Town square developer Linger Longer Communities says there will be plenty of nearby parking for beachgoers in the new Village's interior. The parking plan includes leaving a small portion of a big parking lot north of the island convention center and adding parking along new streets, said James Langford, Linger Longer's project manager.

But critics think the plan doesn't give Jekyll's day visitors enough consideration.

Parking next to the beach might seem like a remote concern to those used to the 4.5 acres of beachside parking lining Jekyll's beach today. But some beachgoers have begun to think about what the area would be like without it.

Sandra Williamson of Townsend says she and her husband often bring their grandchildren to the beach. When they do, they park in Jekyll's beachside lots.

"It is very nice to have rest rooms and changing areas for the family right at the beach," she said. "We make several trips back and forth between the car and the beach. We can easily keep a cooler in the car with bottles of water and snacks for the children."

Williamson said she is "horrified" at the idea of losing the quick beach access.

David Egan of the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island, a group that favors restrained development, notes Linger Longer's largest parking area holds 960 vehicles and lies a quarter mile from the beach at its farthest point.

"It's wrong to put the main public parking a quarter of a mile away. This is one of the most densely used parts of the beach," he said .

Langford said the large lot is meant to serve convention center visitors and will keep convention traffic away from the beach, freeing up parking nearby for beach visitors.

There will be no beachside lots, he concedes, but street parking will lie right next to the dunes in some places. An 88-space lot at the retail center and a hotel lot over-designed by 150 spaces will offer extra public parking within 200 yards of the beach.

"On a summer day when it's very busy at the beach, it will be full," he said. "But those with children will be close to the beach. We've got plenty of parking in the town square center to accommodate them."

And the pervious surfaces in the new parking areas will be more friendly to the environment by reducing the runoff that occurs now from the large, asphalt lots, Langford said.

The large number of beachside lots on Jekyll today, which rarely fill, are not necessary, said Bill Crane, spokesperson for the Jekyll Island Authority, the park's governing body.

"To put surface lots [there] is a waste of that land. It would be more desirable for hotels, retail and residences," he said. These are amenities that put people in touch with the beach, he said.

But Egan says placing high-priced amenities on the beach and moving the bulk of parking inland - along with Jekyll's affordable hotels - sends a message.

"It says the first clientele being accommodated is not Jekyll's day visitors," he said. "It says you are not a priority."

Langford doesn't necessarily contradict Egan's point.

"People coming to the town square center area are probably there to do more than just go to the beach," he said. "And they are going to get to park right in the middle of all of that." A COMPARISON Main beach parking today Deck parking lot: 260 spaces Picnic parking areas: 40 spaces North surface lot: 500 to 600 spaces Normal summer traffic: Deck parking lot half to three-quarters full. Picnic lots partially used. North lot rarely used. At peak traffic: 5,520 cars pass through the gate for the entire island. Deck parking fills. North lot does not. New Town Square Center public parking Retail center lot (within 200 yards of the beach): 88 spaces Hotel parking garage (within 200 yards of the beach): 350 spaces, shared with the 200-room hotel Convention Center parking garage and lot one-quarter mile from the beach at its farthest point: 960 spaces, shared with a 400-room hotel and 160 timeshare units Street parking: 772 spaces distributed across 64 acres. Two short stretches line the beach. Sources: Jekyll Island marketing director Eric Garvey; Linger Longer Communities

10/30 - Don't destroy parking lots

The Florida Times-Union
October 30, 2007
Special to the Times-Union

A recent article in the Georgia Times-Union that described another impact of the Linger Longer Communities redevelopment proposal brings into focus a question that underlies the entire project on Jekyll Island. Who will benefit the most?

David Egan of the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island opined that exchanging beachfront parking for high-priced amenities "says the first clientele being accommodated is not Jekyll's day visitors. It says you are not a priority."

Using inaccurate data, the developer tries to justify the proposal claiming that the north parking lot is rarely used.

Those of us who live on the island know this to be untrue. On every weekend from May through September, all the beachfront lots are filled to capacity with local daytrippers. Even during the week, there are substantial numbers of families in cars and campers using the convenience of beachfront parking.

Parking a quarter of a mile away can be a daunting trip in the hot July sun, with three children, a cooler, umbrella, blankets and beach toys.

LLC's beachfront design may well lead to the demise of the annual Blue Grass Festival, which is, to a great extent, dependent on motor home and camper visitors who pack the parking lots well beyond their intended capacities.

Existing parking lots that have a significantly lower impact on the island's fragile environment will be replaced with 1,112 rooms, which in LLC's design model will be in hotels, condos, cottages and vacation homes.

This will equate to a minimum of more than 2,000 additional people using the beaches, bike paths and other amenities. Unlike the daytrippers, they will be on the island 24/7.

One can only imagine the adverse impact this will have on the habitat of the endangered loggerhead turtles that nest in the dune areas between the proposed developments and the ocean.

So who will be served by the new state-of-the-art parking lots a quarter mile from the beach?

Not the ordinary citizens who are mandated by law to have access and have used the island for over 40 years.

Not the protected loggerhead turtles that have nested on the beaches for eons.

And, not the Jekyll Island Authority that will be obligated to repay the $84.5 million bond issue with public money.

The first to be served will be the affluent few, who will be able to purchase beachfront condos that will push the $1 million envelope.

Also served will be the well-heeled visitors who will be able to walk from their rental cottage, time share or hotel room across the tree-lined boulevard and dunes to the beach.

The best served will be Linger Longer Communities, which refuses to publish any data on the obscene amount of money it will make for despoiling "Georgia's jewel."

Jekyll Island Citizens Association,
Jekyll Island, Ga.

10/25 - JEKYLL ISLAND Area should be preserved

The Florida Times-Union
October 25, 2007
Letters from readers
Special to the Times-Union

Methinks he doth protest too much. In an Oct. 22 letter, Ken Bleakly, president of an advisory group, asserted that the selection process to award Linger Longer the contract to "revitalize" (read develop a mini-Hilton Head on) Jekyll Island, a Georgia state park, was "not biased."

He cited the six criteria used to rate the proposals. Unfortunately, none of the criteria addressed the issue of preserving the ambience of the last virtually unspoiled barrier island on the Atlantic coast.

He blows away the issue of acreage, where Linger Longer's proposal was based on more area than the request for proposal required. In my experience, that would be considered an unresponsive proposal because it ignored the RFP requirements. It should have been thrown out summarily.

He says the Jekyll Island Revitalization losing proposal planned "nearly twice the number of condominiums as the other two proposals."

Linger Longer's proposal for adding hundreds of condominiums to a fragile island is obscene. The JIR proposal happens to be even more obscene, especially considering that Jekyll Island is a state park.

Bleakly's attempt to justify the contract selection in the media is somewhat surprising, since it will almost certainly be tried in court.


10/16 - Losing bidder protests Jekyll's choice

The Florida Times-Union
October 16, 2007
Times-Union Correspondent

JEKYLL ISLAND - A consultant who was supposed to help Jekyll Island officials select a new revitalization partner manipulated numbers and facts to make the winning proposal appear stronger than it really was, a competitor has charged.

The Jekyll Island Revitalization Group, who lost its bid to become Jekyll's revitalization partner last month, said Jekyll's consultant, Bleakly Advisory Group, skewed the facts to make one developer's town square proposal look more appealing than the others. As a result the developer who planned to put the most new construction on Jekyll Island, Linger Longer Communities, was made to appear as if it would be developing it the least.

"We had a better land plan, a better team and paid the public a better financial return. We also were asking for no money from the state," said Wade Shealy, managing partner of the Jekyll Island Revitalization Group. "If [Bleakly] hadn't manipulated the numbers we should have won."

Bleakly made an "apples and oranges" comparison between proposals when it placed green space and density figures in winner Linger Longer's plan next to those of the Jekyll Island Revitalization Group, Shealy said.

That's because Linger Longer was permitted to put its development on 64 acres instead of the 45 originally allotted for the project. The advantage allowed the company to spread out more construction over a larger distance, and at the same time win points with board members for having the plan with the most green space and the lowest density, he said.

In the summary portion of the report, Bleakly listed abundant green space and low density among Linger Longer's assets, while high density was listed as an issue for the Jekyll Island Revitalization Group's plan. If Linger Longer had been forced to confine the buildings to 45 acres, as the other two developers did, Linger Longer's green space and density numbers would have been the worst of the three finalists, he said.

Ken Bleakly, president of Bleakly Advisory Group, said the Jekyll Island Revitalization Group should have known it could extend development beyond 45 acres. At a June question and answer session the Jekyll Island Authority Board, which governs the island's development, told developers they didn't need to restrict their proposals to the 45-acre site. They could suggest upgrades to other amenities on Jekyll in addition to the town square center.

"They had 64 acres, too. They just chose not to use it," Bleakly said.

Shealy doesn't buy that explanation.

"They knew by Aug. 13 that Linger Longer was planning to build on 64 acres and didn't ask the other two groups, 'What would you do with an extra 19 acres?'" he said.

Shealy also criticized Bleakly for making Linger Longer's financial return appear stronger than it really was.

Bleakly's report showed Linger Longer requested a $47 million bond from the state to help finance its project, but Shealy said Bleakly left out an additional $37 million that Linger Longer had requested for 2013.

Ken Bleakly said the extra $37 million for Linger Longer was removed out of fairness because it was for upgrades to the island's water and sewer system, which the authority would have had to pay for anyway. But Shealy called that explanation weak.

"If that's so, we should have known about it. There's no way to verify it because we can't find anything about why it was removed in the communications between the two organizations," he said.

The Bleakly comparison also produced misleading revenue figures for the Linger Longer plan, said Shealy. The report said Linger Longer would produce $67 million for the Jekyll Island Authority over 15 years. But Shealy said that figure includes a 5 percent lodging tax that accounts for roughly one-third of the revenue. The tax allows Linger Longer to lower its room rates slightly, but make up some of the revenue with the tax.

"We could have shown lower room rates, too, if we had charged a tax," said Shealy. "It's just something that should have been disclosed."

Shealy further criticized Bleakly for not mentioning the Jekyll Island Revitalization Group proposal would have put 65 percent of Jekyll Island into a conservation easement and contributed $500,000 per year to the Jekyll Island Foundation.

"We would have identified right up front which land would stay undeveloped. Without that protection we could find the whole island developed 20 years from now," Shealy said.

After the board selected Linger Longer, Shealy told board members the Jekyll Island Revitalization Group's plan had not been fairly represented. But, Shealy said, board members seemed more worried by how his complaint would look to the public than whether the process had been fair.

"[Board member] Sam Kellet told me, 'If you stay cool and don't go to the press, there will be something for you down the road at Jekyll,'" said Shealy.

Contacted by telephone Monday, Kellet denied having made such a statement.

Shealy questions why the Jekyll Island Authority hired Bleakly Advisory Group. The company was sued in 2006 for misrepresenting a hotel developer's proposal in response to another government issued request for proposals.

The board chose Bleakly as its consultant without opening up the process to competitive bidding, in violation of Georgia procurement law, Shealy said.

"This has been the problem with this group, the Jekyll Island Authority, from day one," said Shealy. "They are not following the process right."

Ben Porter, chairman of the Jekyll Island Authority Board, said Monday that Shealy's protest has been referred to the state Attorney General's Office and a response will take several weeks.

This story can be found on at

10/16 - Jekyll hotel plan is just a little bit out of reach

The Florida Times-Union
October 16, 2007
Times-Union Correspondent

JEKYLL ISLAND - The Jekyll Island Authority is looking forward to a few new hotels, but some new fire equipment may need to be placed on order as well.

Schematics of a hotel to replace the aging Buccaneer Resort have unveiled a six-story building - one story higher than any other on Jekyll Island and one story higher than Jekyll Island's fire department equipment can reach.

Members of the Jekyll Island Authority Board reviewed the apparent kink in the plan during their regular meeting Monday, when the drawings were scheduled for board approval.

"We have equipment that can reach the fourth and fifth floor and the whole building will have a sprinkler system," Jekyll Island Authority Executive Director Bill Donohue said.

Both Brunswick and Glynn County fire departments have aerial fire trucks, the vehicle that would be needed to rescue a person from the sixth floor, Donohue said. When a fire broke out on Jekyll Island two years ago, those crews responded within 10 to 15 minutes, he said.

"But I'm sure we'd all feel differently if we were the ones staying on the sixth floor," Donohue said.

Although the new hotel meets Jekyll Island's building codes that no occupied rooms extend higher than 64 feet, this is the first time Jekyll will build livable space that high.

It would cost Jekyll Island's fire department $500,000 to buy its own aerial fire truck.

Rick Patton, spokesman for the hotel development team, said the company would be willing to help with the equipment purchase. Meetings between the hotel architect and Jekyll's fire marshal will continue into next week.

The board approved the schematics, but board member Ed Boshears questioned whether plans ought to move forward before the hotel had final approval from Jekyll Island's fire marshal.

Donohue said the board will have two more opportunities - once in November and again in February - to review the hotel's plans for fire safety before construction can begin.

This story can be found on at

10/22 - Selection process was not biased

The Florida Times-Union
October 22, 2007
Special to the Times-Union

This is in response to the Oct. 16 article in the Georgia Times-Union titled "Losing bidder protests Jekyll choice."

The Jekyll Island Authority selected Linger Longer Communities of Greensboro, Ga., on Sept. 24 as its private partner for revitalizing the Georgia state park. One of the developers not selected is alleging that the process was biased.

The Bleakly Advisory Group was selected, through a competitive bidding process, to assist the Jekyll Island State Park Authority in selecting the most suitable private partner for the future revitalization of Jekyll Island.

During a thorough and rigorous process, our firm was asked to evaluate and recommend to the JIA Selection Committee the best choice for a private partner, using six specific and measurable criteria: qualifications of the development team; financial strength of the proposal; details of a draft plan; financial return to JIA; responsiveness to the overall process; and responses at the interviews.

There were four responses to the original request for proposal and three finalists - Jekyll Island Revitalization, Linger Longer Communities and Trammell Crow.

The proposal of Jekyll Island Revitalization and its managing partner, E. Wade Shealy Jr., scored lowest in the rankings of the Bleakly Advisory Group, as well as the JIA Selection Committee.

The entire JIA board subsequently and unanimously selected Linger Longer Communities.

Much has been made of the difference in proposed Jekyll Town Center acreage contained in the Linger Longer plan.

However, as it relates to score and ranking, the details of the plan only accounted for a fraction of the overall score. The plan presented by JIR contained more retail and nearly twice the number of condominiums as the other two proposals.

A significant lack of financial detail was also a weakness in the JIR proposal, as the specifics of financing a project of this scope are critical to the long-term success of the program.

Proposers were also asked to share their relevant experience as developers. In the JIR proposal, three of the most prominent projects listed were not developed by JIR or its proposed venture partners.

The Jekyll Island Authority's process allows for an appeal by any proposer to raise issues or concerns regarding the process or its conclusions.

That is occurring now, and a response is being prepared by the JIA and the Georgia Department of Law.

As an independent real estate/design and project development consulting firm, we have significant experience in this arena.

We find it hard to imagine a scenario that results in significant score changes or adjustment across all six measured criteria as it relates to process or procedure questions in a request for proposal, which we think was carefully and judiciously managed.

Bleakly Advisory Group,
Atlanta, Ga.

This story can be found on at

11/02 - Jekyll Island's future will be the topic for a series of public hearings beginning Nov. 14.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 11/02/07

Meetings will focus on a developer's plans to build more than 1,100 hotel, condo and time-share units in the state park near Brunswick in southeast Georgia. In September, the Jekyll Island Authority selected a Greensboro, Ga., upscale developer with plans for a $352 million residential and commercial "town center" on 64 acres.

Each hearing, scheduled for two hours, will include a presentation by developer Linger Longer and be followed by a question-and-answer session. For more information:

Schedule of hearings:

• Nov. 14: 9:30 a.m., Heritage Bank. 392 Charlie Smith Sr. Highway, St. Marys.

• Nov. 14: 3:30 p.m., Jekyll Island Convention Center. Jekyll Island.

• Nov. 15: 6:30 p.m., Augusta. Fort Discovery. One 7th Street.

• Nov. 20: 3:30 p.m., Atlanta. Cobb Galleria Centre. Two Galleria Parkway.

10/11 - Minus limits, Jekyll could be monster > Opinion > Bookman
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 10/11/07

Everybody involved in the redevelopment of Jekyll Island State Park — the politicians, the state officials, the private developers — talks in reverent tones about protecting the island's ecology, beauty and character. There's no reason to believe that they're anything less than sincere.

However, there's a lot of reason to fear that those good intentions won't be enough, and that we will end up doing permanent damage to "Georgia's Jewel."

Jekyll is a pretty small place — just 6.6 square miles of sand off the coast of south Georgia —and there's no question that its lodging facilities and other amenities need a significant upgrade.

But in undertaking a major redevelopment and expansion on Jekyll, the logical first step would be to figure out how much growth it could absorb before its character and integrity are compromised. How many housing units, how many daily visitors, how many cars, how many restaurants and shops can be put in such a small place without losing what makes it special?

We don't know the answer. The Jekyll Island State Park Authority has begun handing out major contracts for redevelopment without any real idea of the island's capacity to absorb it all.

Bill Donohue, the executive director of the Jekyll Island Authority, acknowledges the usefulness of a limit, suggesting that such a restriction would probably evolve over time, eventually settling somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 to 2,500 rentable rooms,.

(For comparison's sake, the island today hosts a little over 1,200 rooms, not counting private homes. That's a drop from its historic peak of more than 1,500 rooms, another sign of the island's decline as an attraction.)

But here's the problem. Last month, the authority awarded a major redevelopment contract to Linger Longer Communities to build three new hotels, a new convention center, retail space and cottages and condos on Jekyll.

The proposal is well thought out, with a lot of environmentally responsible features. But built out, it would add 1,400 rentable rooms to the island. Combined with the 1,200 units already on the island, that would put the island total at 2,600 units, already above the informal ceiling suggested by Donohue.

And that would only be the beginning.

This summer, the Jekyll Island authority also invited developers to apply to become the authority's private partner in overseeing redevelopment of the entire island, including more hotels and condos.

In its official request for proposals, the authority told developers that "the ultimate potential opportunity ... could substantially exceed the first redevelopment project."

And in addition to redeveloping existing properties, the authority noted, another 108 acres of the island are now vacant but available for development.

As Donohue points out, redevelopment wouldn't have to mean more density. Hypothetically, he said, "an old 200-unit, two-story hotel could be torn down and replaced by a four-story hotel of the same size. You'd cut the acreage in half, and more undeveloped acres could result."

However, without a ceiling on development, that's not likely to happen, as a real-life example demonstrates. Jekyll's aging 206-room Buccaneer Beach Resort is being torn down. But it's being replaced on its 9.7-acre site with a 300-room hotel and 120 two-bedroom condos.

Combined with the Linger Longer project and existing rooms, that would bring Jekyll's room total to almost 3,000, with a lot more redevelopment yet to come. And with all those additional rooms will come demand for more restaurants and bars, more shopping, more recreation.

Without the discipline of a rigid limit on how much development Jekyll can sustain, the best intentions in the world won't be enough to withstand the inexorable economic pressures to do more and more and more.

Find this article at:

10/31 - An open letter to Jerry Keen concerning Jekyll

Date October 31, 2007
Section(s) Letters
The Brunswick News

I urge state Rep. Jerry Keen and the other members of the Legislative Oversight Committee to consider the great harm that will be done to Jekyll Island if the proposed redevelopment of the park takes place.

Mr. Keen, you do not need to take away our beloved ocean-front property, where everyone can see the ocean, to put up high priced condos.

A few years ago, the plan for Jekyll Island development was to build a hotel for the convention center, and rebuild the convention center, old hotels and shopping center. Before we could catch our breath, we had the Reynold's Co. proposing to build a small "city," taking with it a haven for wildlife and our oceanfront public parking lots.

Just six miles west of Jekyll Island is a massive project called Liberty Harbor, which includes abundant waterfront shopping, condominiums, hotels, meeting centers and restaurants.

Jekyll Island does not need to be a repeat of that. With all the growth in this area there will be an influx of people who will want to visit Jekyll Island because it is a state park with so much to offer.

The park needs renovated hotels, not more hotels and condos.

Enough is enough.

I feel it is your responsibility to preserve the affordability of Jekyll Island and its beauty, and to make sure its oceanfront remains accessible.

The position taken by our elected officials on this issue will determine the votes of many people come election time.

Sharon Harrington
Jekyll Island

10/31 - Excellent proposal? Not quite

Date October 31, 2007
Section(s) Letters
The Brunswick News

On Sept. 21, you wrote an editorial about the threat of development to the habitat of endangered loggerhead turtles.

On Sept. 27, you praised the Jekyll Island State Park Authority Board for its selection of Linger Longer Communities' (LLC) proposal to be the authority's Private Revitalization Partner. You felt that LLC's plan for a Town Center was "just simply excellent."

There is an important connection between these two editorials. The Town Center is to be located directly adjacent to a beach that is critical nesting habitat for loggerhead turtles.

The Town Center would position some 3,000 new beachgoers as potential threats to loggerhead nesting, and beach concessions are presently included in the Town Center plan, potentially adding an additional threat to successful turtle reproduction.

In your Sept. 27 editorial, you point out that LLC desires for its Jekyll project to be environmentally friendly.

In my view, the best way for LLC to achieve environmental friendliness is to maximally abide by the federal Endangered Species Act, and apply for an Incidental Take Permit for loggerhead turtles.

I feel that it is clear that the Town Center population and activities could reduce the success rate of loggerheads attempting to nest on the Town Center beach. LLC would need to prepare and file a Habitat Conservation Plan in order to obtain an Incidental Take Permit, and the plan would then be monitored for successful execution.

The Habitat Conservation Plan would give the loggerheads a fighting chance to coexist with the Town Center.

Steve Newell
Jekyll Island

10/20 - Girl, 10, working to save playground

Date October 20, 2007
Section(s) Local News
The Brunswick News

It was devastating news for 10-year-old Morgan Simpson. Her beloved playground would be no more, at least according to the plans of Linger Longer Communities for the redevelopment of Jekyll Island.

This was something Morgan did not want to see happen, and she was determined to do something about it.

"It doesn't feel right," she said, sitting at a picnic table at the playground near the miniature golf course on Beachview Drive. "I love this playground."

So, after discussing it with her parents, Morgan came up with a petition protesting removal of the playground.

She's obtained more than 42 pages of signatures and more than 527 names. Morgan has gotten the whole fourth-grade class at her elementary school, Satilla Marsh, to sign the petition and is working on the fifth-grade class.

The principal and assistant principal have signed the petition. Her goal is to get every student at Satilla Marsh Elementary to sign.

She even took her petition to CoastFest on Oct. 6.

It was her mother, Rande Simpson, who broke the news to Morgan about the playground's fate. She said she was astounded by the proposal to demolish the playground.

"The first thing I noticed about the plans was the playground," Rande Simpson said. Simpson and others spent nearly a year planning and getting the playground built in 2003.

All the equipment gleams brightly in the sun. It's even gated and offers separate play areas for different age groups.

"It was a real community effort to get it built," said Rande Simpson, pointing toward the different plaques and engraved bricks that line the walkway, mementos purchased by supporters. The playground, built with money raised through such fundraisers, is maintained with proceeds from the Jekyll Island parking fee.

Morgan said she spent many birthday parties at the playground and can't imagine not having it around.

Everyone uses the playground, she said. Locals and tourists alike bring their children to play on the swings, slides and Morgan's favorite, the monkey bars.

"This was from the heart and the children," Morgan's mother said about the petition.

The family knows the playground has to go, but they would love to see it moved somewhere else, she said. Simpson says it would be great if it was near the beach, more specifically north of Blackbeard's Restaurant.

"I would at least like to see it relocated," Morgan Simpson said. "I understand things change but the sad part is there's nothing for children to do" if the playground is demolished.

The Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island, which opposes high-priced development on Jekyll Island, supports Morgan's effort.

"We are happy to see Morgan step up and do this," said David Egan, co-director of the Initiative.

Meanwhile, Morgan Simpson continues to push for an alternative approach to demolition.

"Jekyll Island is for all of Georgia, but they forget about the children," said Dan Simpson, Morgan's father. "The children get tired of the beach and Summer Waves. Without the playground there will be nothing for them to do."

10/19 - Concerns are justified

Date October 19, 2007
Section(s) Commentary
The Brunswick News

As Senator for the Third District, I've had the pleasure of speaking recently with a number of Georgia's citizens regarding the development proposal presentation by Linger Longer Communities, the newly-selected private partner of the Jekyll Island Authority.

While most of these folks spoke of their desire to see some of the facilities and amenities of Jekyll Island State Park renovated, they also expressed concern over whether Linger Longer's proposal is appropriate for a State Park established specifically with affordability and accessibility as key elements.

Concern has been raised, for example, over building hundreds of condominiums on the current site of four, large public parking lots, which cater to day visitors and provide direct and convenient public access to the park's central beach.

This concern is a fair one and raises the question, "Is the purpose of Jekyll Island State Park best served by making condos the center piece of the park's oceanfront, or by continuing to provide the park's visitors with easy access to the sweeping views of Jekyll's pristine beach?"

Citizens have asked me why high-priced hotels and condos are proposed for a state park legally set aside for the benefit of Georgians "of average income."

The JIA has already agreed to replace the affordable Buccaneer Resort with an upscale 540-room hotel/condo complex, where room rates will approach $250 per day in the summer season.

Linger Longer proposes to build 400 more high-end hotel rooms, which would make most of the park's hotel accommodations unaffordable for most Georgians. Again, this is a fair public concern expressed often by Georgians I encounter.

The same question could be asked with regard to the condos Linger Longer proposes to build, 10% of which would sell for less than $400,000.

Using simple math, it seems likely that the rest of the condos, which are double and triple the size of the so-called 'low-end' units, will likely sell for double and triple that price.

In Friday's edition of the Brunswick News, JIA Executive Director Bill Donohue, in supporting the selection of Linger Longer as the Authority's private partner, stated that all of the proposed development "would occur at almost no Georgia state taxpayer expense."

However, when taking a closer look at Linger Longer's proposal, we see that it calls for the JIA itself to be saddled with $84,000,000 of public debt.

This debt would be paid for through park revenue that normally would go to the JIA for the maintenance and operation of the park.

If Linger Longer has its way, this revenue, which would come from the pockets of thousands of Georgians who visit the park annually, would finance a tab Linger Longer normally would pay if this were private property.

Mr. Donohue also stated that part of the Authority's mission is to ensure that the park's lodgings will be "accessible and available to all Georgians."

This admirable goal reminds me of the wise words that highlight the Georgia coast display at the State Capitol Museum: "This exhibit is intended to compliment our past and present governors and our department of natural resources for the excellent job done in keeping our coastline free from pollution, commercial exploitation and destruction.

This will enable thousands, of yet unborn generation, the pleasure of exploring and enjoying Georgia's coastline."

Living up to the words of the Capitol's exhibit is a goal that Georgia can meet only when its officials, elected and appointed, execute its laws, rules and policies with the greatest care, and in complete transparency.

It is my goal, as the Senator for the District blessed with an asset like Jekyll Island State Park, to do my best to assure the people of this state that those laws, rules and policies are carefully and openly fulfilled.

- Jeff Chapman is a State Senator.

10/17 - Full impact of proposal finally being realized

Date October 17, 2007
Section(s) Letters
The Brunswick News

Now that the much anticipated "Private Partner" plum has been awarded by the Jekyll Island Authority to the Reynolds Linger Longer group, the full impact of this monumental giveaway of the Jekyll Island State Park by the authority is beginning to be exposed.

The Reynolds plan calls for intensive development of two-thirds of a mile of beachfront extending from Days Inn to Shell Road (near Blackbeard's Restaurant). This requires rerouting of two-thirds of a mile of Beachview Drive and the elimination of most all of the public beachfront parking on Jekyll Island.

Elimination of beachfront parking impedes and denies access of Georgia day visitors to Jekyll's most visited beaches.

In essence, the Reynolds development privatizes a main stretch of public beaches on Jekyll Island. Proposed parking areas within the Reynolds developed condos, hotels, shopping and residential homes would not be convenient nor useful to Georgia and other day visitors.

This is a clear violation of the public beach access confirmed in HB 214 and other legislation concerning Jekyll Island State Park.

The outrageous Reynolds proposal saddles the Jekyll Island Authority with $84.5 million of debt against only $67 million in revenues.

In other words, the state of Georgia is paying Reynolds to acquire rights to 67 acres of prime oceanfront property in a state park.

The Reynolds proposed development threatens to destroy the ambiance of Jekyll Island and turn it into another crowded Hilton Head with all of the attending destruction of habitat, water resources and public beach access.

The entire scenario cries out for thorough investigation.

Joe Iannicelli

10/12 - Straight from the source

Date October 12, 2007
Section(s) Commentary
The Brunswick News

As we choose the best path to becoming a better Jekyll Island, there will of course be disagreement along the way.

With guidance from the Bleakly Advisory Group, a professional real estate consulting firm, the Jekyll Island Authority conducted a very detailed and thorough Request for Proposal (RFP) to select a private partner for the revitalization of Jekyll Island.

During this process, all finalists asked the Jekyll Island Authority questions and received answers at a mandatory proposers' meeting on June 25 and also online at

The RFP primarily addresses the Town Center Site because the Jekyll Island Authority wanted to receive readily quantifiable and comparable offers for a specific property and project.

The RFP also discusses the Jekyll Island Authority's desire to enter into a long-term partnership with the selected developer based on the results of this first project.

Proposers are encouraged to discuss their interest in becoming the authority's long-term development partner and how they would propose structuring the partnership in terms of future development opportunities on Jekyll Island.

It could include a discussion of future development options, management of the authority's existing amenities and proposed financial structure.

In a public meeting on Sept. 24, The Bleakly Advisory Group also gave the full board of the Jekyll Island Authority a detailed briefing of their rankings and the various strengths and weaknesses of each proposal based on the following specific criteria:

* Developer qualifications and experience

* Financial strength/financing plan

* Quality and character of the Town Center plan

* Responsiveness to RFP purpose and objectives

* Responsiveness during interviews

* Without dissent the board reaffirmed its desire to select a private partner who best understood and supported the authority's mission to protect and preserve Jekyll's eco-system, to maintain low residential density and to significantly upgrade the island's hotel and convention offerings while keeping all accessible and available to all Georgians.

The Jekyll Island Authority Selection Committee unanimously endorsed the Bleakly Advisory Group recommendation of Linger Longer Communities.

Following a motion to adopt the Selection Committee recommendation by Finance Committee Chairman Bob Krueger, and seconded by fellow board member and former state Sen. Ed Boshears, Linger Longer Communities was unanimously selected as the Jekyll Island Authority's Private Partner designee.

These new or renovated retail, convention and hotel properties will lure new visitors, as well as replace the three hotels we have already lost, and substantially improve our offering to mid-sized conventions, professional and trade associations, and non-profit and church groups who have long called Jekyll their second home.

The next few years will be an exciting time for Georgia's Jewel as an expected half-billion dollars in new investment and improvements are poured into the island.

And all of this will occur at almost no Georgia state taxpayer expense, as even bonded debt will be repaid from hotel/motel taxes, lease payments and user fees at the golf courses, convention center and other island attractions and amenities.

While we can't stop rumors from spiraling out of control or improve the flavor of the sour grapes of a few, we can do our level best to provide you fully with the facts and to polish Georgia's Jewel to its brightest shine ever.

- Bill Donohue is the executive director of the Jekyll Island Authority.

10/10 - Can this deal be delayed?

Date October 10, 2007
Section(s) Letters
The Brunswick News

Could the 441 million-dollar contract recently awarded to Linger Longer be delayed in court for years? I managed a few construction projects for the federal government and provided procurement packages for potential bidders. Georgia procurement laws are the same as the federal laws. They evolved as a result of past corruption and favoritism, and are there to ensure fairness and to protect the taxpayers. If the government violates any procurement laws the competing bidders can protest the award of the contract and possibly tie it up for years.

The most popular types of procurements are Invitation for Bids (IFB) and Request for Proposals (RFP). An IFB procurement is initiated when you know exactly what you want and completely define it with drawings and specifications. An RFP procurement is initiated if you have a general idea of what you want, but want the bidders to provide proposals. Because of the desire to tap into the creativity of the bidders an RFP was initiated for the Jekyll Island Development. Both types of procurements have one thing in common: The bidders have to be responsive to all of the specifications. If any of the bidders find errors in the specifications or have suggestions that they feel are an improvement, they can contact the procurement agent and recommend changes. If the changes are implemented the bidder then has to resubmit the modified specifications to all of the bidders.

From what I have heard and read it appears that the Jekyll Island Authority specified that the area be limited to 45 acres, and be located within the boundaries defined on a drawing. If this is the case it appears that they violated state procurement laws by selecting Linger Longer. Linger Longer should have been considered non-responsive since they exceed the specified acreage. By law, if the Jekyll Island Authority was willing to accept the increase in acreage they should have revised their specifications and resubmitted them to all of the bidders. Linger Longer was given an unfair advantage.

10/08 - Rejected Jekyll bidder appeals

Date October 08, 2007
Section(s) Local News
The Brunswick News

A spurned bidder for the job to lead new development on Jekyll Island is asking the island's oversight agency to reconsider its plan.

The Jekyll Island Authority, however, says there was nothing wrong with how it selected Linger Longer Communities for the task, and is standing by its decision.

The rejected Jekyll Island Revitalization Group, formed by Atlanta developer Wade Sheadly to seek the contract to create new public spaces and accommodations on the state-owned island, however, contends that Linger Longer had an unfair advantage and that its winning proposal also has hidden costs.

Sheadly declined to say what his group would do if it does not receive a favorable review.

Four days after the Jekyll Island Authority on Sept. 24 unanimously awarded the revitalization job to Greensboro, Ga.-based Linger Longer Communities, a lawyer for Jekyll Island Revitalization Group wrote the authority Sept. 28 that the bidding process was unfair because different bidders had been treated differently.

Jekyll Island Revitalization contends that its proposal, and the proposals of other rejected groups, limited plans for a new town center of shops and restaurants to a 45-acre site, as specified in the Jekyll Island Authority's request for proposals.

"What we've discovered is that (a consulting group advising the authority on the bids) gave out false information to the Jekyll Island Authority and the people of Georgia," said Shealy.

Shealy said his group contends that Linger Longer was given one set of parameters while other groups were given another. Linger Longer, Shealy contended, was given permission to plan the first phase of construction outside of the 45-acre tract.

The result, Shealy argues, was that Linger Longer was able to submit a proposal that contained more attractive open space.

"Give us the same amount of land and we would have had more open space," Shealy said. "The boundary lines are very specific in the (request for proposals from bidders)."

Shealy also contends that, in the short-term, Linger Longer will ask the state for more than $47 million dollars to help finance its project, while his group sought venture partners to capitalize the development. No tax dollars would have been used in the Jekyll Island Revitalization Group's proposal.

"Our project would have paid more dollars to the state than Linger Longer over a 15-year period," Shealy said.

A presentation prepared by Bleakly Advisory Group, the consultant the Jekyll Island Authority hired to help it solicit and evaluate bids, shows that over a 15-year period Jekyll Island Revitalization Group would pay the authority $128.06 million while Linger Longer would pay $67.55 million.

Now that the letter of protest has been filed, Shealy said his group must wait for a response, which he anticipates will take about a month.

"There was an error made, and we're going to give them some time to examine it and come to some sort of remedy," Shealy said.

Jim Langford, project manager for Linger Longer Communities, said his group did not participate in any illegal or inappropriate actions during the bidding process.

During the proposal process, he said, various bidders submitted questions to the Jekyll Island Authority. He said Linger Longer asked the authority if it could submit some creative ideas.

"They gave us permission to do so, allowing us to offer suggestions for the short- and long-term health of Jekyll Island," Langford said. "We assume that the other respondents included ideas in their proposals that we weren't privy to at the time, and we did not begrudge them this opportunity."

The Jekyll Island Authority declined to comment on specific questions about the protest letter or the possibility of litigation, but did issue a statement through its spokesperson.

"The Jekyll Island State Park Authority conducted a fair, thorough and objective evaluation of the proposals submitted for the position of a private partner to plan and execute, along with the authority, the revitalization of Jekyll Island. We are pleased with our selection of Linger Longer Communities," according to the prepared statement.

10/05 - Proposed Jekyll village plan has drawbacks

Date October 05, 2007
Section(s) Letters

The editorial "Jekyll Island plan an excellent idea" overlooks some drawbacks to Linger Longer's proposal.

The plan eliminates four large ocean side parking lots used by day visitors.

Linger Longer has made inadequate provisions for parking within its proposed village, and there are no beachfront parking lots.

Under the plan, the JIA would assume responsibility for $82,500,000 in bonds for infrastructure improvements, a huge debt that would negate much of the revenue gain Linger Longer projects for the Authority in touting its proposal.

The proposed village would create traffic and population density problems for the park's core, and would erode Jekyll's well-deserved reputation as a model of restrained development. When the town square concept was raised by the JIA several years ago, it was a modest one.

How this concept mutated into a 60+ acre village--meaning into a major real estate development project--is anybody's guess. The plan eliminates the park's popular miniature golf course and adjoining children's playground.

A few neighborhood parks are proposed, but they will not offer the same kind of accessibility and recreation experience the existing playground provides.

Only 27 of the village's 277 condos are priced under $400,000. Room rates at Linger Longer's 400-room convention hotel average $183.

Add these rooms to those of the Club Hotel and the upcoming Trammell Crow hotel, and over half the park's lodgings will be unaffordable for most Georgians--a far cry from what was originally intended for "the people's park."

David Egan
Jekyll Island

09/27 - Jekyll Island plan an excellent idea

Date September 27, 2007
Section(s) Commentary

Excellent plan. Just simply excellent. New hotels, new convention center - a brand new look for Jekyll Island. A whole new image.

Great job, Jekyll Island Authority. It has taken some time - and it will take a little longer given the dramatic makeover that's proposed - but the $441 million redevelopment and redesign plan outlined by Linger Longer Properties this week is nothing short of a class act. It's a welcomed project indeed, highly welcomed, and a much anticipated one at that.

New hotels, a village shopping area with all the finery that can be found in other coastal communities and a convention center that will bring people and business back to Jekyll Island are a major part of what's on the drawing board, but it's not everything that is attractive about the plan. Mercer Reynolds III, chief executive officer of Linger Longer Properties, says his idea includes other qualities and features that so many other projects its size and scope on the East Coast lack. Jekyll's redevelopment will be environmentally friendly.

There's something else Reynolds says his plan will have that other oceanside communities don't have. It will be affordable, and not just to those of means, either. It will be accessible to all. It will be a place where everybody can go to enjoy the sun, the sand and the surf.

Jekyll Island Board Chair Ben Porter and other board members, as well as many of their predecessors, have maintained a certain vision for the state-owned island.

When faced with criticism, they didn't budge. They held steadfast to their goal.

As a result, Brunswick and the Golden Isles, as well as the rest of the state, have something spectacular to look forward to in the months and years ahead. They will see an island transformed from rags to splendor before their very eyes.

Those who have expressed concerns about a fresh face for Jekyll Island can rest easy today. They can now see for themselves that their concerns and worries were for naught. No one is being left out in the cold. No one. The island will be there for everyone.

That leaves just one question for the chair and leadership of Linger Longer Properties: how soon can you start?

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.

09/25 - Jekyll's vision for the future

Date September 25, 2007
Section(s) Local News
The Brunswick News

The Jekyll Island Authority has selected a company that developed a luxury resort in north Georgia to lead a $441 million redevelopment of Jekyll Island.

The board voted Monday during a meeting at the Jekyll Island Convention Center to give the job to Linger Longer Communities, the developer of Reynolds Plantation, a golf resort that includes a Ritz-Carlton hotel at Lake Oconee, east of Atlanta.

Linger Longer will present an overview of its plan during a meeting at 9 a.m. today at the Jekyll Island Convention Center.

It will include:

* Construction of three new hotels - a 125-room economy hotel, 200-room mid-price hotel and 400-room convention hotel - at a total cost of $162.5 million.

* A new convention center built in two phases, including a first phase costing $25 million.

* Development of a village center of shops and restaurants for $9.78 million.

* Road, park and other infrastructure improvements costing $25.7 million.

* Construction of 160 condominium units and 227 vacation homes at a total cost of $122 million.

* Construction of parking garages for $6.4 million.

* Replacement of the Buccaneer motel with a $90 million facility.

* An environmental center.

Jim Langford, project executive with Southeast Landco, which is affiliated with Linger Longer, said Monday there is no plan for a Ritz-Carlton on Jekyll Island, although some upscale properties are planned.

"We're planning an economy hotel, a mid-scale beachfront hotel and a convention hotel," said Langford, former state director of the Georgia Trust for Public Land. "The (Jekyll Island Authority) board members all voiced their support for our affordability provisions. That was one of the criteria they used to choose us."

Langford said offering hotels in various price ranges will give visitors more options on the state-owned island.

He said Linger Longer's role is to move the revitalization process forward and begin a more formal planning and design process.

"As partners (with the authority), we'll be involved in taking this proposal before the public to get input," Langford said.

The company must sign a contract with the Jekyll Island Authority before it can begin to plan the construction of the new town center.

Construction will begin after completion of final planning, designing and contractor selections.

"We anticipate it will be some time later next year, but we don't know exactly," Langford said. "We could start opening shops, hotels and restaurants in 2011."

Over the next five years, the company will begin work on the first phase of a new Jekyll Island Convention Center. It will no longer be a beachfront facility, but will face the Great Dunes Golf Course.

"During that construction, the existing convention center will stay open," Langford said. "Then, we'll start tearing down the (old) convention center and move the business to the new one."

The first phase of construction will result in a convention center with 75,800 square feet of space in a two-story building. That will include a lobby, preparation space, meeting rooms and ballroom space.

The second phase - which will follow demolition of the existing convention center - will add 65,275 square feet of space, for a total of 141,075 square feet.

Langford said Linger Longer is committed to environmentally friendly building concepts and increased green space, including parks on the tops of the new convention center and one of the hotels.

"People want more natural environments," Langford said. "Green design concepts are more eco-friendly ... designers and the public are asking for more creative solutions for vacation destinations."

While he likes the "greening" of the project, David Egan of the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island, a residents group that had challenged proposals for change, said he still has questions.

"I think the group they picked had some things going for it that the others did not," Egan said. "The park concept, the environmental center and keeping the bike trails are good, as is their paying some attention to affordability."

In addition to the three hotels, Linger Longer's proposal also calls for 277 vacation cottage units and 160 vacation club ownership units.

"My gut reaction is what effect will all those condos have on the laid-back island atmosphere?" Egan asked. "If you listen to what visitors say - and it ought to count for something - for years, people have been saying, 'don't line the beach with condos.'"

The authority and Linger Longer will begin soliciting public comment on the proposed plans in October.

Project will create jobs, revenue

The revitalization of Jekyll Island will create 500 construction jobs during peak construction and another 572 new permanent positions with a combined 10-year payroll of $107.4 million and an economic benefit of nearly $215 million, the developers estimate.

Glynn County and the state will realize an additional $55.3 million in sales tax revenue over the same 10-year period and Glynn County will see an estimated $23 million increase in its property tax revenue, according to a projection by Linger Longer Communities.

A statement issued by the Jekyll Island Authority asserts that Linger Longer was chosen as the authority's revitalization partner based on the company's experience and its sensitivity to the board's key issues, such as density on the island, affordability of the island's accommodations and the environmental impact of the redevelopment.

"Our commitment to the stewardship of Jekyll Island is very serious," said Ben Porter, chair of the board of the authority in a prepared statement. "Linger Longer shares that commitment.

"The new Town Center will re-invigorate Jekyll as Georgia's most desirable vacation and convention destination."

- Mary Starr, The Brunswick News

09/20 - Jekyll hotels create buzz

Section(s) Local News
The Brunswick News

It will be about two months before work begins on the first new hotel on Jekyll Island, but already two projects - Jekyll Ocean Oaks and a $90 million hotel/condo beachfront complex - are a hit.

"With the announcement of these projects, our phones have been ringing again with convention groups wanting to return or bring new meetings to Jekyll Island," said Eric Garvey, marketing director for the Jekyll Island Authority.

Callers will have quite a while to wait. Both projects will take from 18 to 24 months to complete.

Work on the 138-room Jekyll Ocean Oaks hotel won't begin for another two months and will take about 18 months to bring to completion, Garvey said. Construction is slated to begin in November and to be finished in time for a June 2008 opening.

The hotel, a Marriott SpringHill suites select service hotel, will be built on the beachfront on the south end of the island on the former site of the Holiday Inn, which has been demolished.

Garvey said the project will include an adjacent free-standing restaurant with space to accommodate meetings, weddings and social functions in a beachside village setting.

"The SpringHill Suites' exterior design has been modified with custom architecture that leverages the character of Jekyll Island and fits within the natural dune setting," he said.

The natural environment will be kept intact as much as possible, Garvey said.

"The site plan for the new hotel has been carefully worked to limit impact on existing trees on the site," Garvey said.

The hotel will be affiliated with the Jekyll Island Club.

The separately proposed $90 million multi-use development, the subject of controversy among Jekyll Island residents and a state senator, will take about two years to complete. Construction is expected to begin once the Buccaneer motel on the south end of the island is razed, a project that is scheduled to begin in October.

The development calls for a 300-room mid-market, family friendly conference-oriented hotel, Garvey said. It also will include a 120-plus room hotel-condominium, outdoor pools, an indoor pool and 17,000 square feet of meeting space.

A full-service restaurant, fitness and spa facilities are other features that are planned.

Garvey said there also is the job creation side to such a large-scale development. He said some 250 to 300 people will be employed during the construction phase and 275 to 300 permanently when the facility goes on line.

The project became enveloped in controversy after the Jekyll Island Authority approved incentives worth millions of dollars for its developer, the Trammell Crow Co. Island residents and state Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, have questioned the need for any monetary break.

To Garvey, it is the dawning of a new era for Jekyll Island.

"These new hotel projects are very important to the future of Jekyll Island and fit nicely with our overall revitalization efforts," Garvey said. "We want to bring back a healthy supply of lodging that will meet the demands of our broad market, and provide high-value, affordable options to our guests."