Jekyll Island caps 7-year, $195 million redevelopment

Governor Deal on hand to rededicate tourist destination
Westin Jekyll Island
Photograph courtesy of The Westin Jekyll Island

Monday morning Governor Nathan Deal and a host of local and state dignitaries capped off a weekend-long celebration marking the “rededication” of Jekyll Island.

The event marks a milestone in the seven-year, nearly $195 million dollar reinvestment effort, once stalled by the recession and development hurdles along the way. Most of the money has come in the way of private investment, but taxpayers—through a state financing arm—also contributed $75 million toward the project. Deal himself has played an active role; in 2014, he signed laws that clarify how much of the island could be developed.

Among the highlights of the project: the Jekyll Island Convention Center (opened in 2012, it’s the only beachfront convention center south of New Jersey) and a new Westin hotel on the beach. Both the hotel and the convention center are part of what the Jekyll Island Authority is calling “Beach Village.”

The State of Georgia purchased Jekyll Island in 1947. Three years later, the Jekyll Island Authority was created. The Authority’s mission was to “oversee the conservation, development and stewardship” of the island and to provide access to the island to “all Georgians.” Jekyll’s history dates back to the founding of Georgia, though it’s probably best known as a playground for the nation’s wealthy families during the Gilded Age. In 1910 the island hosted the nation’s leading financiers, which led to the creation of the federal reserve system. Jekyll Island itself comprises some 5,700 acres—a mix of forest,  marshes, and ten miles of beachfront.

In 2014, the most current year in which statistics are reported, the Golden Isles region of the Georgia Coast, of which Jekyll is a part, attracted a record 2.4 million visitors, representing an estimated economic impact of over $1 billion. The reinvestment is intended to bring the island up to contemporary lodging and convention standards. According to the Associated Press, car traffic to Jekyll has increased 23 percent since 2012, when the convention center opened.