More than a decade after closing the old PineIsle Resort, Lanier Islands resort in South Hall County is trying to get a feel for development possibilities on the now-vacant property.
“We have our own speculation, but we recognize that it’s an excellent site to develop and we’re just trying to understand the opportunities for what and … when,” said Bill Donohue, executive director of the Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority.
The authority and Lake Lanier Islands Management, which operates the resort, are looking to hire an outside firm to give them a fresh take on the matter.
“We want to see what the real estate experts think,” Donohue said. “Could it be a traditional resort conference center/hotel, a different type of lodging experience or would there be any interest?”
The resort is accepting proposals from firms through mid-October.
“We’ll hire one of them and they’ll probably take 90 days to put together a plan,” Donohue said.
Virgil Williams, whose family operates the 1,100-acre resort, couldn’t be reached for comment.
His company has virtually remade Lanier Islands since taking over 11 years ago, including building or redoing bridges and roads, and renovating what is now known as Legacy Lodge & Conference Center.
Early on, the family turned its attention to the 254-room PineIsle Resort, which had gone through a series of owners over 34 years. The final one, Marriott Corp., closed the hotel on Nov. 4, 2005.
“The roof was leaking,” CEO Mike Williams said in an August 2015 interview. “It was in bad shape. (Before it closed), they were having to sell their rooms real cheap and that was driving down rates at the other hotel.”
Marriott asked the Williams family if the company could exit its lease and “give us the assets and the building,” Mike Williams said.
After a long evaluation, the family decided to tear down the old hotel rather than rebuild. The hotel was demolished in April 2008.
The 2007-09 Great Recession was a big obstacle to the family rolling out plans for the resort, including the development of another hotel.
“Our dream would be to build a second hotel on the property,” Mike Williams said in the 2015 interview. “We’d love to get there, and I think we’ll see it.”
Donohue, who has been with the authority since January 2008, said the third-party study could give the Williams family a leg up as it approaches developers.
Plus, “they may need a document like that to come back to the development authority and say, ‘We have this exciting new investment — is it possible (the authority) can help with the infrastructure to make that project work?’”