By Emma Woodham, Staff Writer For The Island Eye News
A new hotel in Wild Dunes has been the topic of conversations on Isle of Palms for many weeks now, and representatives from Lowe, the company that owns and operates Wild Dunes, presented information about the proposed hotel to city council in May.
“Lowe is excited to complete a long-awaited second phase of the development for this site, providing additional public space and outlets to be enjoyed by all Isle of Palms residents,” said Dan Battista, Senior Vice President of Lowe.
The hotel, which has yet to be named, will have 153 rooms and an event venue with a capacity of 250 guests. In addition, the new hotel will house a full-service spa and a new outdoor restaurant. Lowe also plans to renovate some of the pool area to add a kiddiepool.
Currently, Wild Dunes’ administrative building stands on the site that Lowe plans to build the hotel, so that building will be demolished and the administrative services moved to an off-island location on Daniel Island.
Though Isle of Palms’ Planning, Building, and Licensing department was first approached about the hotel nearly three years ago, official renderings of the project have yet to be submitted. Battista says that they should be available sometime in June. According to Douglas Kerr, director of the department, Lowe’s next step is to apply for the permits.
At the May city council meeting, Kerr noted that in 1975, the city amended its code to allow Wild Dunes to construct a maximum of 350 inn rooms. The amended code also provided certain stipulations regarding the number of stories that the buildings could have and the height of the buildings.
One particular topic that many island residents have expressed concern over are the ancient Live Oak trees that stand in the area Lowe plans to build the new hotel. Battista assured everyone present and again in an interview, that the company fully intends to save the trees. A total of 12 trees are located in the area of the planned project; six of them will remain in their current locations and six of them will be relocated.
Lowe plans to engage the services of Environmental Design, Inc. to relocate the trees. In the past, Environmental Design, Inc. has worked with tree installations on projects such as the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in Manhattan and the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania.
“The tree relocation company, Environmental Design, Inc. has successfully relocated live oaks in the past, including two recent oak relocation projects on Isle of Palms. We are confident in their abilities,” Battista said.
Another area that Lowe has focused on is minimizing the impact that the project will have on traffic flow in and around Wild Dunes.
“Lowe has designed an improved entry/arrival point that more efficiently guides vehicles from Palm Blvd. onto the Resort’s property in order to alleviate traffic on Palm Blvd. We also have created a dedicated valet lane so guests entering the hotel don’t have to re-enter the community onto Palmetto Dr.,” Battista said.
Battista stated that the Palm Gate will be reconfigured into one lane and will function as an active barcode reader entrance for community residents. The Palm Gate will also accommodate incoming construction traffic. Battista and Frank Fredericks, managing director of Wild Dunes, are determined to keep open lines of communications with the residents of Wild Dunes and with the community as the project progresses.
“We will continue to keep open lines of communication with Wild Dunes residents and will keep them up to date with each step of this process,” Fredericks said.
Kerr stated that the city staff will make technical judgements about the compliance of the hotel with all relevant codes and regulations. So long as the proposal complies with all existing regulations, the Wild Dunes hotel project can progress.
“I do think that Lowe has spent a lot of time and effort addressing the concerns raised by the residents inside the Wild Dunes resort,” Kerr said.
If the project progresses according to schedule, Lowe hopes to begin demolition of the Administrative Building by July. Expected completion of the hotel would be somewhere around Summer or Fall of 2020.