Wild Dunes Resort, the gated beachfront golf and tennis getaway on the Isle of Palms, is poised for a major expansion.
A 150-room hotel with conference center and rooftop wedding venue will join the four-star 93-room Boardwalk Inn.
The expansion also includes another pool with two hot tubs, a children's pool, a 10,000-square-foot "destination spa" with 14 treatment rooms, and an outdoor restaurant and bar.
The new phase will be built just east of an area called The Village, a 150-unit mix of rentals and residences near the 94-room Boardwalk Inn. The pool complex will replace a traffic circle and parking lot. The hotel will replace the administration building. Parking will be underneath the lodging.
Site work is expect to start in early August, with the demolition of the administration building, according to Dan Battista, senior vice president of development in Charleston for Lowe, the real estate investment firm that owns the resort.
The opening is set for 2020.
Los Angeles-based Lowe, formerly called Lowe Enterprises, has owned Wild Dunes since 1990. It opened the Boardwalk Inn in 1998 and the Village in 2007. The resort includes two golf courses, an acclaimed tennis center and beach access.
The administration building was built in the early 1980s. The 70 employees who work there will be relocated to a new office on Daniel Island, according to Wild Dunes managing director Frank Fredericks.
The rooftop wedding space will boast views of the ocean. There has been increasing demand for weddings at Wild Dunes, he said.
"We use third-party industry reporting to determine demand and then project future demand based on those trends," Fredericks said. "There is clear demand as the Charleston area continues to grow in popularity and air service expands."
The new facilities will provide meeting space for 250 to 300 people, doubling the resort's available group space, he said.
Developers have been meeting with Isle of Palms officials and residents to assure them they’re working on ways to minimize congestion from the extra traffic.
Guests will enter through the Palm Gate, the entrance on the western end of Palms Boulevard. To address the extra congestion, the gate will be expanded to include three separate resort lanes in addition to the existing community owner access lane and contractor lane, according to Battista.
Wild Dunes, like much of the rest of the Charleston area, has increasingly shifted from residents to tourists over the last couple decades, and it's accelerating as the region becomes more of an international destination.
Several residents who live near the Palm Gate expressed concern about the increasing noise from parties when council discussed the plans in May.
Kay Greiman has lived for nearly 20 years in a house called Little Fish on 57th Avenue, just south of the construction site outside the Palm Gate. After the meeting, she said her biggest concern was noise from parties on the hotel roof. She said police told her to shut down a party in her back yard at 9:30 p.m. but have allowed parties at Wild Dunes to go until 11 p.m.
"Things have changed drastically," she said. "It used to be pretty quiet back here. It seems that Wild Dunes is given permission to do things that other parts of the island aren’t allowed to do. I’m just trying to make sure they follow the rules like everybody else does."
Jim Smiley lives near the resort on 44th Avenue and also expressed his concerns at the meeting.
"This to me doesn’t seem to be much of a deal to those of us who live along Palm Boulevard," he said. "I’m concerned, disturbed, dismayed at what you’re planning to do to my life."
Councilman Ted Kinghorn pointed out that revenue from tourism is the reason council has not increased property taxes in years.
"We want you to be successful," he told the resort representatives. "I think you’re sensitive to the issues we raised."
About 2,200 residences are within the gates of Wild Dunes, Fredericks said. In the peak of the season, there are typically about 800 vacation rentals, in addition to the current 93 hotel rooms in the Boardwalk Inn.