JEKYLL ISLAND | A developer that rode out a depressed financial market since 2006 announced Monday it will spend $88 million on Jekyll Island to build three oceanfront hotels.
Bob Abberger Sr., managing director of Trammell Crow, said the company will split the grounds of the former Buccaneer and Beachview Club hotels on the island into three properties on which they will build a 210-room Courtyard Marriott, a 150-room Springhill Suites and a 175-room full service hotel that will be named later.
Each of the hotels on the combined 15.5 acres will be four stories - meeting the 54-foot maximum height restriction - and their rooms will all have ocean views, Abberger said.
The Marriott will cost $32 and the Springhill will cost $24 million and each should be open by the end of 2015. The third hotel, which Abberger said could be the most upscale of the three, should open by the end of 2016.
"We're saving our most beautiful property for last,'' he told the Times-Union.
Abberger also asked the Jekyll Island Authority board to reduce the company's lease payments, which total about $300,000 a year, in half during construction "to help us get out of the ground."
The board voted to accept the concept, but it will consider the design at future meetings and closing on the property is still months away.
"We are bullish after a long waiting period to be a part of the revitalization of this island,'' Abberger told the Times-Union.
He marveled at the amount of progress underway on a new Westin hotel and the new retail center just south of the convention center and at progress on other properties.
The convention center was a great selling point for investors and it helped make the hotel projects sustainable, he said.
"It helped us stay the course ... This island is ready to go,'' he said.
"At last,'' board member Sybil Lynn said of Trammell Crow's plans during a break in the morning meeting. "That's a big commitment, two hotels and then a third one."
And they're not just any hotels, board member Bob Krueger said later.
"We've gone from no flags to major flags,'' he said calling the Marriott brand a "reservation machine."
The company had come up with other plans in the past, cottages first and then condominiums, but couldn't secure financing.
Trammell Crow has already had its consultants on the grounds working with the Jekyll Island staff to preserve trees on the properties and will also plant 6-inch live oaks where there are no trees, Abberger said.
The Marriott will have Spanish architecture like that in Florida while the Springhill will have Georgian architecture that is more common in Savannah and farther up the coast, he said.
The board also checked out progress being made at a couple of other hotels, first touring the Westin where they took in the ocean views from the upper floors, and then saw where the kitchen, restaurant and other amenities will be located in the building.
The also saw the gutted Oceanside Inn and Suites, that is being remodeled into a 157-room Holiday Inn.
Jason Smith, the general manager of the hotel, said the new building will have all new plumbing and electrical systems and new wiring to accommodate the latest technology.
And for the first time ever, the building has a sprinkler system for fire suppression, he said.
"We've already proposed more than $3 million in future business,'' some of it tied to the convention center, Smith said.
The Holiday Inn is aiming for a Labor Day opening.Terry Dickson: (912) 264-0405
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