Monday, December 7, 2009

Public Celebration Officially Launches Revitalization of Jekyll Island

/PRNewswire/ -- Governor Sonny Perdue, along with board members and staff of The Jekyll Island Authority, officially launched Jekyll Island's revitalization today with a public celebration attended by area business leaders, government officials, dignitaries, guests and residents of Jekyll Island.

Signifying an exciting future for Jekyll Island, Governor Perdue was joined by board members and dignitaries to plant a commemorative tree at the future site of Great Dunes Park -- which one day will be a beautiful and central welcoming area for all Jekyll Island guests. Today's event marked the first official groundbreaking for the highly-anticipated public revitalization project planned for the island.

In his public remarks today, Gov. Perdue said, "The revitalization of Jekyll Island has been discussed for many years, and I'm excited that this day is finally here. This public-private partnership will result in a reinvigorated Jekyll Island that will attract more visitors who will appreciate the beauty and history of one of our state's crown jewels."

Echoing the Governor's sentiment was Jekyll Island Authority Board Chairman Bob Krueger, "This is great news for Jekyll Island," Krueger said. "This was a grand day, and marks the beginning of Jekyll Island's revitalization. It's all good, and it's a sign of great things to come for the island."

Also attending today's ceremony were delegates to the 71st annual meeting of nearly 1,400 members of the Georgia Farm Bureau. "We have welcomed this group more than 45 times on Jekyll Island, and their support has had a significant guest and economic impact on our Island," said Hooks. "It's very fitting that they're here with us today as we celebrate our future, and we look forward to hosting them many more times on our revitalized island."

Great Dunes Park

Today the island broke ground for Great Dunes Park. Once completed, it will welcome guests and residents to Jekyll Island with nearly 20 acres of beachfront space enhanced by several picnic pavilions, a deck for beach events, a play area, beach access for the public, and more. The play area will include an 8,000-square-foot environmental area for kids and other natural recreational elements. This development project, which will encompass dune restoration where appropriate, and will also incorporate structural features to protect the environment, such as bio-swells to capture and treat storm-water run-off, sea-turtle-friendly lighting, and signage to educate visitors about the environment. Pedestrian-friendly markings will guide guests throughout the entire beachfront park.

The parking area at the existing convention center will be redesigned to provide parking for the new beach park and convention center, along with expanded family and group pavilions. A new beach deck will provide elevated views of beach and lawn activities, a shaded pavilion, and restrooms. Native tree and shrub plantings will enhance the beachside feel and provide durable, low-maintenance vegetation to protect the dunes and provide a natural habitat for wildlife. Signage will educate visitors about the environmental sensitivity of barrier islands. A walkway will connect Great Dunes Park to the future Jekyll Island Beach Village. Southern Wilderness, of Edison, GA, was awarded the Great Dunes construction project at the end of November, and their winning bid was nearly a half million under the proposed $2.2 million budget for the project.

Jekyll Island Convention Center

Following the construction of Great Dunes Park, the Jekyll Island Authority is scheduled to break ground on the new Jekyll Island Convention Center. The new facility will provide more than 120,000 square feet of prime meeting space for planners and maximum enjoyment for guests. It will be integrated into its natural beachfront location in a manner that minimizes impact on the environment while creating a positive guest experience to ensure strong repeat business for years to come.

The interior design of the center will present a relaxed coastal experience in keeping with the indigenous beachfront context. The roof forms of the building's exterior will harmonize with the surrounding beachfront trees. Outdoor terraces will allow visitors to enjoy delightful vistas and balmy coastal breezes while sheltered from sun or rain. Views of the dunes and ocean will be a key feature for attracting conventions - many of which are currently meeting outside the State.

Jekyll Island Entrance Revitalization and Island Improvements:

The next phase of Jekyll Island's revitalization includes plans to improve entry corridors welcoming guests to Jekyll Island. All improvements to the entry corridor will take advantage of existing live oaks to enhance the intimate character of the Jekyll Island entry experience. The Jekyll Island Causeway and Beachview Drive, both two-lane roads, will provide adequate traffic capacity for the existing and proposed development. Relocating the present welcome center to the vicinity of the current visitors' center on the causeway will allow the inland to better display its scenic beauty to arriving guests. Expanding the entrance to two traffic lanes will further enhance the arrival experience. Current plans call for construction of a new gas station on the island with 24-hour service and a food mart, to replace the station that was closed earlier this year. Verizon Wireless recently completed a new cell phone tower in November on the south end of Jekyll Island. The tower enhances calling capacity and in-building service-level to the Verizon Wireless voice, National Access data and Broadband Access data network for the guests staying at the Jekyll Island Club.

Morgan Center

In partnership with the Jekyll Landmark Associates (a Jekyll Island Club Hotel affiliate), the Jekyll Island Authority has agreed to an adaptive reuse of the 1929 Morgan Tennis Center as the home for Jekyll Island meeting and convention activities during the revitalization process. Construction is underway and exterior and interior renovations will include a wonderful event balcony that will make the building suitable for weddings, meetings, banquets, and other events. New food service and kitchen facilities will be added to the existing building, along with new restrooms, and the facility will continue offering wedding and event services after the new convention center is completed.

Jekyll Island Beach Village

Plans continue for the Jekyll Island Beach Village, anticipated as a charming hub and popular island destination for Jekyll Island guests and residents. Current retail offerings on Jekyll Island will be integrated into the new Beach Village location, and Reynolds Companies, in partnership with the Jekyll Island Authority, will fund, design, and construct various private portions of the village, to include approximately 30,000 square feet of retail space located below approximately 60 loft units, a 150-room economy hotel, and a 200-room mid-scale hotel. A future 160-unit, vacation-ownership project or cottage development is also planned to the south of the hotels. In addition to the $50 million in public investment designated for Jekyll Island's revitalization, an approximately $120 million in private funding will be invested to build these hotels, along with restaurants and retail shops.

New Hampton Inn and Suites

In January, 2010, the first new hotel on Jekyll Island since 1974 will open its doors. The beachfront Hampton Inn and Suites will be jointly owned by New Castle and Jekyll Ocean Oaks, LLC, the owner-operator of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel. The new facility will offer 138 guest rooms, 88 of which are suites with balconies. Amenities will include a lobby bar, beach access, revitalized nature trails, an expansive pool deck, a kid's pool, and a large hot tub. The property utilizes solar panels for water heating, and the hotel is a member of the "Green" Hotel Association, a group of environmentally-friendly properties whose managers are eager to institute programs that save water, save energy and reduce solid waste.

Economic Impact

The revitalization of Jekyll Island continues to move forward despite the unprecedented national economic recession. With the $50 million of public funding committed, the Jekyll Island Authority has been able to keep revitalization on track for necessary public infrastructure redevelopment. The projects will create 200 construction jobs with a payroll of more than $56 million.

"Jekyll Island was first purchased by the State as a wonderful and special place for all Georgians," said Jekyll Island Executive Director Jones Hooks. "On completion, Jekyll Island will be back on the map as a spectacular place to live and visit in Georgia, and will once again be known as one of the premier travel destinations in the Southeast. The momentum starts today with this exciting project that will create jobs at a time when they are desperately needed, and we're confident that 'It's All Good!'"

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