|By Cassie Foss, The Island Packet, Hilton
Head Island, S.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Dec. 24, 2009--Ohio developer Chippewa Partners LLC is pressing forward with plans for Project East with aims to link an Italian culinary school to the University of South Carolina Beaufort and the Island West golf course to a 196-room hotel and wellness center, said Michael Kronimus, local architect and project manager.
Bluffton town staff and the proposed development's representatives agreed last week to proceed with research on the viability of Project East, a 15-acre complex at the Buckwalter Tech Park. Developers hope to build a medical center; an 80,000-square-foot, indoor children's theme park; and a campus for Apicius, an international culinary school based in Florence, Italy.
Apicius is affiliated with about 30 other universities and colleges around the United States, including the Culinary Institute of Charleston at Trident Technical College.
"You're bringing a world-class culinary school to the area," Kronimus said. "And four or five top five-star restaurants and a hotel that would act as a conference center would be part of the package."
Jane Upshaw, USCB chancellor, said the university has met once with developers to discuss a possible collaboration between the university and the culinary school.
"Any time we have an entity that is interested in expanding educational opportunities in our area, USCB is interested," Upshaw said. "There are any number of models we could use, and the partnership could go both ways. In fact, I told the developers they should include the Technical College of the Lowcountry, as well."
Upshaw said university officials might be interested in an agreement with the culinary school, in which USCB students working on a four-year degree in hospitality management also could earn culinary credits. Apicius students could take classes at USCB and earn a four-year bachelor's degree in hospitality management, she said.
The $80 million development -- which would also include several entertainment-themed restaurants, a Japanese-style spa and a conference center -- would offer a club membership option that could be paired with timeshares at resorts like Chippewa Landing, a similar project planned by the same developer at Lake Chippewa, a 330-acre lake in Medina County, near Akron, Ohio, Kronimus said.
"This will be an entertainment destination like Disney," Kronimus said. "You're going to come here to play golf, shop and have your kids be able to go to the children's center, which is like a family interactive center similar to Epcot, but on a smaller scale."
The resort would offer shuttles to and from Hilton Head Island, old town Bluffton and the airports and offer discounts to local residents, he said.
Bluffton will consider paying for the project with revenue bonds issued through the town and the complex would be built at Buckwalter Place, which is already zoned for commercial development.
In Ohio, the developer entered into an agreement last week with the Medina County Port Authority to begin the formal planning stage for the Ohio project. The bonds will be issued in February and construction will begin in May, Kronimus said.
Kronimus said the developer wants to use bonds to finance both project because it is difficult to get credit through private lenders.
Plans for the Bluffton development also include an open-air amphitheater, a manor house for weddings and conferences, a boardwalk-style entertainment complex for families and golf at Island West, Kronimus said.
He said hotel patrons would have the option of entering the subdivision through a new, back entrance on golf carts to reach the course.
The course is owned by Shallowford Crossing Associates Limited Partnership, a private company based in Atlanta, said Nancy Tighe, assistant to the course's general manager.
Tighe said Chippewa Partners filed a letter of intent with the owners to purchase the golf course, but said she did not know the status of the talks.
Kronimus said plans to annex the course and make it part of the report were still under negotiation.
If the town approves the plans, Project East would be all built at once, not in phases, and include about 400,000 square feet of construction, he said.
Tom Zinn, owner of Buckwalter Commercial LLC, said Buckwalter Place planners "try not to impose any specifics on investors."
"We try and evaluate each project and see where they fit in Buckwalter Place overall," Zinn said. "We take into consideration our master plan and what people want."
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Copyright (c) 2009, The Island Packet, Hilton Head Island, S.C.
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