Oaks on the River plan in motion; a turning point in
Darien’s economic potential
Wheels are now in motion for a McIntosh County’s native son’s vision and commitment to utilize a portion of historic Darien’s River bluff for a rebirth of economic potential.
On Oct. 4, the McIntosh County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) voted to enter into a development agreement with Art Lucas of Oaks on the River II, LLC, to purchase the portion of the IDA’s upper bluff property immediately to the east of the Darien River Bridge. On Oct. 5, IDA’s Chairman Chris Harper and Treasurer Cliff Sowell and Lucas signed a development agreement that put the project in motion for the Phase I plan of development.
The Phase 1 property does not include the IDA owned Darien Waterfront Park, stage, boardwalk, docks or the waterfront property west of the Darien River Bridge that is owned by the IDA. The agreement calls for up to a 90-day due diligence period for Oaks on the River before the closing no later than Dec. 31, 2017. IDA will then have up to 90 days to vacate the property before construction will begin. Completion of the project is set on or before 42 months after the closing date.
Lucas plans to build quality restaurant, retail space on the first floor and eight condominiums above. He said the architect is tweaking the design that will be presented to the City, but the plans include a stucco façade with red tile roof overlooking the Darien riverbank.
In the Phase 2 portion of the project, Lucas has already purchased from Golden Island International (the jelly ball processing plant property) to the east of the IDA property. His plans include an approximately 37-room boutique hotel, restaurant, bar, pool, exercise facility, community rooms for events and a marina, with maybe a restaurant at the marina.
Golden Island International has until September 2018 to move the processing company out of downtown Darien and to the property that has been purchased on Hwy 251, the former location of the shoe factory.
Following the signing of the development agreement with IDA on Thursday morning, Lucas said, “This land is a beautiful piece of property. The factory has been here since I was a kid growing up in McIntosh County back in the 1950s and even before that. It made sense back in those days, but it doesn’t make sense these days to have this kind of land on the beautiful Georgia coast being used (in that way). You need to use the property at its highest value of economics and doing something that we are talking about doing.
“I am a proud son of McIntosh County and I love it here. I am a property owner in the north end of the county. Some think I’m crazy. So much of this project is tied to the national economy. All of a sudden, we could have another 2009 hit, and you couldn’t give anything away then. I’ve got my fingers crossed that we will have a ‘Trump-bump’, a good economic environment for a while, so that we can get all of this launched.”
Lucas added, “You just can’t create this unique and special place with its beautiful oak trees and gorgeous high bank and beautiful river. I want to create some nice jobs here. I love the county and I love Darien. I went to school here as a kid through the sixth grade. I used to ride the school bus from Harris Neck, two hours a day each way. This is a great county.
“I know the people who have been here forever get nervous. I understand that. You take the old and you take the new. We can’t go back to the 1950s anymore.”
IDA’s CEO Wally Orrel said on Oct. 5, “We are very fortunate to have a McIntosh property owner and former resident of our county as the developer. Art Lucas is committed to making this project an extremely nice, with aesthetically pleasing structures that will welcome visitors to Darien.”
He explained the reasons that the IDA initiated the agreement. “We began the journey several years ago when the 10-member State Department of Economic Tourism Product Development Committee came to McIntosh to help us to identify potential tourism opportunities. At the top was their suggestions was to better utilize the McIntosh County Industrial Development Authority property (on Fort King George Drive east of the Darien River Bridge). Having a government office located on one of the best sites in Darien that produces no tax dollars and employs only two individuals does not make good business sense.
Our property alone (Phase 1) will create 24 permanent jobs and over $100,000 annually in new tax dollars.
“When you combine Phase 2, these two projects will create 64 jobs and over $10,000,000 in investment that will provide almost $500,000 in tax dollars.
“Lastly, the agreement that was overwhelmingly approved by the IDA Board includes the bluff property owned by the IDA and does not include the park, stage, boardwalk, docks or waterfront property west of the Darien Bridge. I truly believe that five years from now the City of Darien will be transformed to a more vibrant and charming destination location for travelers, and for locals, as well.
The purchase price for Phase I includes $7,500 cash earnest money from the developer to the IDA and two percent of the gross sales price of each residential unit in Phase 2 that is sold, payable upon sale of each unit to a person, with the developer receiving a credit which may not reduce the amount payable below zero dollars in earnest money and two percent of gross revenues with respect to any part of Phase 1 owned by the developer or an affiliate for five years after the issuance of a certificate of occupancy for the commercial units.
The development agreement includes a clause that if the developer has not completed the construction of Phase 1 by the 42-month completion date, the developer will pay $8,833.33 per month until $500,000 has been paid. And, is Phase II is not complete after 72 months from the conveyance date, the developer will owe $2,083.33 a month until $75,000 is paid.
The 39-page development agreement also addressed economic incentives to support the success of the project, which will provide public benefit to IDA and McIntosh County. The agreement states: “IDA has taken such public benefit into account for purposes of this agreement, including, without limitation, for purposes of determining the purchase price. IDA will give consideration to providing or facilitating, as appropriate, available economic development incentives for the project, as they would for any new project in McIntosh County…” including the following: tax exempt bond financing for the project; job tax credits applicable to new jobs related to tourism; any quality job tax credits for which the project is eligible under Georgia law; job tax credits, investment credits and rehabilitation credits available under law; any exemptions legally permissible by the City of Darien and McIntosh County; any applicable grant loan programs; or any new market tax credit programs.