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Lake Lanier Islands roadwork to be done in nick of time
Holiday light show starts Nov. 22
Workers dump gravel into a machine used to pave a road at the Lake Lanier Islands Resort Thursday. Renovations and construction continue at the resort in Buford. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

BUFORD — The first phase of a massive road construction project at Lake Lanier Islands is nearing completion, just in time for the resort’s annual drive-through holiday light show.

Bill Donohue, executive director of the Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority, informed board members of the project’s status during their regular meeting Thursday.

"We’re 95 percent complete on phase one," Donohue said. "We should wrap everything up in the next two weeks in terms of road surface, then another two weeks to dress up the shoulders."

Donohue said the roadwork will end in time for "Magical Nights of Lights," the annual light show that runs from Nov. 22 to Dec. 30.

"We’ll start phase two at the first of the year," Donohue said.

The state authority is responsible for the infrastructure of the resorts, which is leased to a family-owned company headed by Gwinnett County businessman Virgil Williams. The authority has financing in place for a complete renovation of the roadways within the resort, as well as a new wastewater treatment system.

Donohue said about one-third of the roadwork will be completed in the first phase. He said the new wastewater plant will be ready in time for a Dec. 31, 2009, deadline set by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

Meanwhile, Grier Todd, the chief operating officer of LLI Management, Williams’ company, gave a glimpse at the effects of the sluggish economy on the resort.

He told the authority that the massive construction and renovations under way at the resort, coupled with the economic slowdown, have impacted the company’s bottom line.

July revenues at Lake Lanier Islands were $2.78 million, down from $3.68 million in July 2007.

Todd said, however, that advance bookings for the resort’s hotel, Legacy Lodge, were promising for 2009.

"It’s been a tough year, and it’s going to be a tough fourth quarter," Todd said. "But our pacing for 2009 is really strong, and we’re looking for one of the best years the hotel has ever had."

A major face-lift for the 21-year-old hotel was completed this year, with a new entrance and lobby. A rustic style typically seen in Western lodges is evident throughout the hotel, which was renamed Legacy Lodge.

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