Treasure Island: The future of Hutchinson Island - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Treasure Island: The future of Hutchinson Island

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

The only thing definite about the plan is that there is one.

"I think what we'll see and what we'll want,'' said Tom Thomson, executive director of the Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission, "is a fairly dense, mixed-use Hutchinson Island.''

So, now the plan, after a decade's dormancy and a series of false starts, is to move forward with earnest development of the land visible from, but once thought conceptually astray from, the city of Savannah in which it resides.

"We believe the market is turning, has turned in fact, and is improving,'' said Savannah businessman John Cay, who is partnering with CSX and Atlanta-Based Batson Cook Development. "And we hope to catch that wave. Of course, given the vastness of the island, we are talking long term. But we would expect to see things that are transformational in the next five to seven years.''

"If they went to the complete fulfillment of that plan'' added John McKleskey, who originally attempted to develop Hutchinson in the 1980s and is now a consultant on the new project, "there would be more density on Hutchinson Island than the Historic District.

Cay and Mark Spadoni, general manager of the Westin Savannah Harbor Resort on Hutchinson Island, recently shared their vision for what the island could become.

And the ambition, like the island, is sizable, with three riverfront parcels totaling 56 acres comprising a next phase of development that would change savannah's skyline and persona.

"The exciting thing right now is it's an empty canvas over here,'' said Spadoni. "We're excited about whatever it brings, but I think the beauty of it is where else do you have a true urban resort?''

"Ideas that have been kicked around include things like botanical gardens, an amphitheater, a world-class spa. There should be a residential component that takes advantage of the fabulous views looking back  at the city of Savannah, possibility of office space,  technology park. A very high end retail component we see as a possibility. We want something that's stunningly beautiful, that's civic minded, that has lots of green space and frankly has a wow factor.''

So far, Cay has been wowed by the reaction to those invited to study the plan so far.

"The urban planning architects that have come here from New York and Boston and Atlanta and other places are excitedly telling us why they should be selected as our partners,'' said Cay. "It's clear that we're really thinking big in regard to this.''

Analysis and research is still being conducted but McKleskey sees great potential on that side of the Savannah River .

"I think it will be a very unique place, not like downtown,'' said McKleskey. "It will have its own identity. In fact, that's one of the things that's being discussed right now, what will be the identity of Savannah Harbor.''

But for Cay, the eventual identity is in the island's existing potential.

"From Boston to Miami, there's not another property like this one, where you have largely undeveloped property across from arguably, what I believe is America's most beautiful city. It's a huge responsibility in terms of what happens here, but it's also exciting.''

Copyright 2013 WTOC. All rights reserved.

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