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New convention center, resort among changes along beachfronts

Courtesy Galveston Island CVB

Like surf and sand, America’s beaches are always changing, and that includes beachfront hotels, resorts and convention facilities.

Here is a look at recent and ongoing beachfront developments.

SMG will manage Jekyll Island center

Jekyll Island, Ga., has chosen SMG to manage its new convention center, under construction on the Georgia barrier island.

The 128,000-square-foot facility is just over 50 percent complete and on schedule for its target opening in summer 2012.

Early this summer, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal visited the site for the first time and pronounced the $50 million project a good investment for the state.

Already the Jekyll Island Authority has booked a number of groups for the new center. For 2013, its first full year of operation, 50 groups — with a total of 33,000 attendees — have committed. Those groups would mean about 38,000 room nights. For 2012, with Jekyll’s temporary convention center in operation half the year, 40 groups with a total of 26,000 attendees have booked.

Among the convention center’s impressive features are a 45,000-square-foot ballroom and exhibit hall with 10 smaller meeting rooms off its ends and a signature meeting room with glass walls that overlook the ocean and Great Dunes Park. From the center, it is an easy stroll to the beach.

The center also incorporates green elements, including solar panels to generate electricity, a solar water heating system, a cistern to collect rainwater from the roof for use in toilets, low water-use plumbing fixtures and drought-tolerant landscaping.


Carlsbad Hilton a rarity
An oceanfront resort under construction in Carlsbad, Calif., north of San Diego is making news because it is a rarity in the hotel industry.

The Hilton Carlsbad Resort and Spa is the only major new hotel development begun this year west of the Mississippi and the only Hilton resort under construction in the United States.

The Wall Street Journal recently spotlighted the development in a story about how few new hotels are being built during tough economic times.

The $80 million hotel, slated to open next June, is in a prime location overlooking Carlsbad State Beach. With 215 guest rooms and 25,000 square feet of meeting space, the resort will be operated by WaveCrest Hotels and Resorts.

Bill Canepa, president of WaveCrest, said, “We felt now was the ideal time to build, with costs historically low and an abundance of well-qualified people seeking employment. Add to that an unparalleled ocean location, and we will have a resort that will prosper in both upward and downward economic cycles.”

In addition to a west-facing courtyard with a large pool, garden and firepit, the hotel will have a 5,600-square-foot spa with seven treatment rooms and an outdoor relaxation area. An oceanview restaurant and lounge will focus on local, seasonal foods; a wine room will be a venue for small private events.

The resort is 45 minutes north of San Diego International Airport and 45 minutes from Disneyland.


One of Cape’s biggest resorts revamps
The beachfront resort that claims to have Cape Cod’s largest meeting space under one roof is nearing the end of a $15 million renovation.

Sea Crest Beach Hotel, on Old Silver Beach in North Falmouth, Mass., has revamped its 263 guest rooms; added a new restaurant and lounge, a cafe and a poolside bar; and renovated its public spaces and its Ocean View Room.

Its location on the Cape’s westernmost end makes Sea Crest one of the Cape properties closest to the mainland.

Among the improvements to its meeting space are the renovation of the 6,450-square-foot Sea Crest Ballroom and the addition of a courtyard that overlooks the beach, and that can be used for breaks or cocktail receptions. Soon to be renovated is the hotel’s 11,800-square-foot Nauset Conference Center.

The hotel’s new restaurant and lounge is called Red’s, named for former Sea Crest owner and Boston Celtics coach and president Red Auerbach. Auerbach, with several partners, purchased Sea Crest in 1963 and converted it into a year-round resort in 1971. After another change of ownership, Scout Real Estate Capital acquired the hotel in February 2010.

Among the resort’s new features is the Red Room, filled with tributes to Auerbach and available for private events; the I-Café, with coffee, treats and wireless Internet access and Red’s Poolside Bar, with ocean views.

A variety of room types are offered among them fireplace rooms, oceanfront rooms with balconies or patios, sundeck rooms with access to the pool and a private beach and suites.

One of touches added during the renovation is a photo collage in the lobby that recounts the interesting businesses that have operated on the hotel site. In 1927, a summer playhouse, with Henry Fonda and James Stewart among its early actors, opened on the beach. After the playhouse burned in 1936, a speakeasy was built. It was destroyed by a hurricane. In 1942, a club managed by Barbara Walters’ father opened on the site, and, after World War II, the property became a summer resort.


Flagship down, Pleasure Pier returns
An eyesore and a reminder of the devastation of Hurricane Ike is being demolished, clearing the path for a new beachfront development in Galveston Island, Texas.

The Flagship Hotel, one of the few hotels built on a pier over the ocean and ruined by the 2008 storm, is being torn down. Owner Landry Restaurants has gotten the nod from city fathers to build a boardwalk amusement park in its place.

The park will be called Pleasure Pier and is a renaissance of the historic pier built in the 1940s that included restaurants and amusement park rides. Located along Seawall Boulevard on the gulf, the pier is scheduled to open in mid-2012.

The pier was built in the 1940s as a ballroom, outdoor theater, snack bar and fishing pier. The hotel was opened in 1965 and Landry’s bought it in 2004.

The new park will be a few blocks from the historic Hotel Galvez, which turned 100 this year. Like the new pier, the hotel’s construction was tied to a destructive hurricane, in this case the nation’s deadliest natural disaster, the Great Storm of 1900, which killed an estimated 8,000 Galveston residents. The Hotel Galvez opened in June 1911 as a symbol of recovery from the storm.

Today, the 224-room hotel is the only historic beachfront hotel on the Texas Gulf Coast. When the hotel opened, the city had just completed the 17-foot seawall that continues to protect Galveston from storm surges.