Location: Amelia Island, Florida
Sponsor: the Amelia Island Plantation Community Association (AIPCA)
Chair: Franklin A. Martin
Subject Area: Metropolitan and Regional Strategies, Economic Growth and Development
The Panel’s Assignment
Amelia Island Plantation (AIP) is a master-planned community and resort located on Florida’s First Coast at the south end of Amelia Island. The community is situated about 35 miles northeast of Jacksonville, Florida, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and marshes and the Intracoastal Waterway to the west. Since its inception in 1970, AIP has been known as both a one-of-a-kind resort destination and a distinctive residential community.
Developed by Charles Fraser and designed by a group of landscape architects led by Ian McHarg, both legendary for their visionary resort communities characterized by their relationship with the surrounding landscape, AIP is no exception. In 1970, Fraser’s Sea Pines Company purchased 3,000 acres on Amelia Island with the intention of creating a resort lifestyle community that enhanced and preserved the island’s natural beauty. Today, the development still contains Fraser’s signature balance of natural beauty, community, and recreation.
In 1973, construction of the community’s resort amenities began, including a golf course by noted golf course designer Pete Dye and a number of tennis courts. The Amelia Island Plantation Community Association (AIPCA) was founded at about the same time and has had an evolving role through the years as the primary provider of services to the community, including maintenance of common areas, roads and trails, signage, and security. Today, AIP contains three golf courses, a tennis center with 23 courts, a fitness center, over three miles of dunes and beachfront, and a number of recreational facilities, parks, and trails for both visitors and residents.
The Amelia Island Company, a consortium of investors led by Richard Cooper, purchased AIP in 1978. The company provided services on a fee basis to AIPCA for security, common area maintenance, and other needs, retaining responsibility for the resort facilities shared with the club, including the three golf courses, tennis center, and fitness center. In November 2009, the company declared bankruptcy, leaving the future of the resort, the company-owned club, and the community in flux. Omni Hotels and Resorts (Omni) purchased the resort assets in September 2010, and community members rallied to create a member-owned club, the Amelia Island Equity Club (the Club), to ensure continued access and maintenance of the on-site club facilities, which are operated by the Club but technically owned by Omni until the completion of a 20-year lease/purchase agreement. By virtue of being property owners, both Omni and the Club are members of AIPCA.
AIP is an important employer both on and off Amelia Island, employing more than 1,000 people in the Omni resort facilities as well as the Club and residential neighborhoods. Many AIP residents are prominent citizens of the larger Amelia Island and Nassau County community, donating hundreds of hours per year to social and cultural volunteerism. However, creating more substantive connections between the historic town of Fernandina Beach and Nassau County, on one hand, and AIP, on the other, should be a priority for AIPCA.
ULI Advisory Services was invited to AIP by AIPCA as it reaches a turning point in its history. As the legacy developer departs and AIP emerges from this period of uncertainty, a new set of relationships between the primary players in community life—the Amelia Island Equity Club, the Amelia Island Plantation Community Association, and the Omni Hotel Group—has come to the forefront, along with a desire from all parties to develop and implement a systematic plan for the community’s future.
Summary of Key Recommendations
The panel has made many recommendations throughout this report but has highlighted 13 key recommendations here. Additional comments about these and other recommendations can be found in the report and its appendix. For a comprehensive list of the panel’s recommendations, please refer to the Timeline table of action Items.
- Hire an executive director for AIPCA
- Allow the AIPCA board to focus on vision, policy, and strategy rather than operations
- Increase the transfer fee from .004 percent to the current cap of .005 percent, and raise the transfer fee cap to at least 1 percent
- Address club membership issues
- Strategically address deferred maintenance in both structures and common areas
- Develop maintenance standards and management performance standards for the management company, and then bid out the contract
- Trade the Property Owner’s Club for the Racquet Park Conference Center to create a new community “living room.”
- Redirect the security focus
- Redesign the AIPCA website
- Provide an integrated community-wide electronic calendar, posted online and physically
- Upgrade the fitness center
- Survey, survey, survey to determine member needs and wants
- Improve cellular service and Internet connectivity throughout AIP