With major renovations underway, Omni Amelia Island Plantation builds on the Plantation’s unique assets and charts a new course to success.
Meticulously preserved since 1971, the Amelia Island Plantation set the standard for real estate development in harmony with nature. Decades ahead of their time, the master developers of this coastal paradise included Renaissance man Charles Fraser and the Sea Pines Company of Hilton Head, SC, and Ian McHarg of the firm Wallace, McHarg, Roberts and Todd. Together they set upon a mission to find the optimum fit between man’s habitat and the existing natural environment, including animal life and plant ecology on this fragile barrier island in Northeast Florida. The result was a master plan to protect tidal marshes and conserve oceanfront dunes, grassland, and savannahs. Included in the plan were such things as an unprecedented 40-foot-wide strip of natural vegetation, added as a buffer to all waterways, allowing them to remain wildlife refuges, travel corridors, and food sources.
In order to protect these standards, covenants were also put into place, which the resort company and property owners were required to adhere to in order to build and live within this magnificent setting. Each building, courtyard, terrace, or boardwalk was placed with the natural environment in mind, making sure that each structure was set carefully within the natural setting rather than distracting from it. The philosophy that each entity on the resort “embraces its site and becomes one with it” is still the mission, and this is the reason why Amelia Island Plantation has remained the pristine environment it is.
With the downturn of the economy in 2008, however, Amelia Island Plantation was hit hard, filing for bankruptcy in 2009, after the resort had suffered a significant negative cash flow for over a year. In 2010, Omni Hotels and Resorts purchased the Plantation for $67 million dollars, acquiring the property without any additional debt.
Just as Fraser’s Amelia Island Plantation’s community was considered revolutionary, the Omni Hotel brand is similarly forward-thinking in its approach to resort travel and living, striving to provide authentic experiences in distinctive locations. For example, they were the first major hotel group to offer a frequent travel program with consumer benefits. They also specialize in acquiring “legacy properties,” that is, resort communities with colorful and significant historic pasts, which are very attractive to their guests.
Other popular Omni properties include Omni Nashville Hotel in TN, Omni Bedford Springs Resort and Spa in PA, and Omni Mt. Washington Resort in NH, along with dozens of others in North America and Mexico. The company prides itself on its vision of being a global, four-diamond hotel company offering consistent products and services in key business and leisure destinations. They are known for their innovation, exemplary hospitality, and superior amenities, including unique guest services, outstanding culinary experiences, and a commitment to environmental preservation.
Omni’s master plan to improve the Amelia Island Plantation began with simple steps to improve the resort. At first, immediate upkeep began, which entailed cleaning, maintenance, some re-staffing, and improvement of service levels. Full stocking of the shelves at the resort’s Spa & Shops was an important upgrade. In a short period of time, visitors and staff members could see that Omni was bringing life back into the Plantation. A $5 million beach re-nourishment had the seashore resort sparkling once again.
Yet, more than this, the key to Omni’s success in business is in its ability to see clearly into the future of the Plantation. Omni recognized that the resort had unparalleled potential as a spectacular travel destination, but it didn’t have enough rooms to accommodate larger groups for weddings, conferences, and retreats. Beginning a new chapter in its nearly 40-year heritage, the Omni Amelia Island Plantation undertook an extensive $85 million Re-Imagination project that is due to be completed in March of 2013. The renovations include an additional 20,000 square feet of conference center space, 155 new guest rooms and suites, an expanded beach club with a two-tiered poolscape, a new lobby and arrival experience, a wider variety of food and beverage venues, and improved connectivity and parking. Because Omni is so hospitality-oriented, its intention is to provide everything that both large and small groups would need, whether traveling to Amelia Island for a wedding, a vacation, or a business seminar. Award-Winning Golf Reinforcing its reputation as a well-known golf destination, Omni Amelia Island Plantation was recently named as one of Conde Nast Traveler’s Top 121 Golf Resorts in the world. Appearing in the April 2012 issue of the publication, the sixteenth annual readers’ poll ranked the resort in the Top 20 Florida Golf Resorts, based on eight criteria: course design and access; golf staff and services; accommodations quality; service; food and dining; location; overall resort design; and activities. With 54 holes of championship golf, the resort’s three courses boast the most seaside holes in all of Florida. Designed by Pete Dye, Bobby Weed, and Tom Fazio, the course greens and fairways are carefully placed along Spanish moss-covered oaks, lush marshes, and the sparkling Atlantic Ocean.
The golf shop has undergone major renovations, which now include the new Marsh View Bar & Grill, which features innovative food and beverage offerings and a 5,000-square-foot deck with unparalleled sunset views over the Intracoastal Waterway. Cliff Drysdale Ultimate Tennis The Omni Plantation’s newly-branded tennis school, Cliff Drysdale Tennis, welcomed Scott Colebourne as the new director of tennis at the resort this spring. Colebourne was nationally ranked in the top five for collegiate tennis players in New Zealand, eventually playing at the All-American level at Vincennes University in Indiana. Most recently, Colebourne hails from Stratton Mountain Resort in Vermont, where he has led the resort’s Drysdale Tennis School since 2009. Under his direction, the Vermont resort was propelled to a top ranking with Tennis Magazine’s “Top Tennis Resorts.” “The Omni Amelia Island Plantation is proud to welcome Scott Colebourne,” says Paul Eckert, general manager of the resort. “This addition is an exciting enhancement to our tennis program, and we’re thrilled to offer our guests the level of excellence they have come to expect.”
“I am very excited about the opportunities ahead of me at the resort,” says Colebourne. “It has a long, rich tennis history, and I look forward to enhancing the already stellar reputation as a top tennis destination.” Indeed, the Omni Amelia Island Plantation’s Racquet Park has hosted tennis legends like the Williams sisters, Andre Agassi, Chris Evert, and Maria Sharapova. The facility boasts 23 fast-dry clay courts, three of which are lighted for night play. New Look for the Hotel When completed in the Spring of 2013, Omni’s new vision of hotel luxury will include 155 additional ocean-front rooms and suites just steps away from the Atlantic ocean. Also part of their re-imagination is a contemporary lobby with floor-to-ceiling ocean landscapes, quicker and easier check-in for both hotel guests and villa guests from the resort’s sister property, The Villas of Amelia Island Plantation, along with a relaxing bar and outdoor deck. The real jewel of this expansive resort re-imagination is a custom infinity-edge adult pool—adjacent to the lobby area—which will cascade down to the splash-friendly family pool. The pool areas will be flanked by two nearby hot tubs, a poolside bar, and expanded new dining options—all designed to maximize the ocean views.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a visitor or a resident of the Omni Amelia Island Plantation to take advantage of much that Omni has to offer. The Spa & Salon offers a full-service spa experience that includes men’s and women’s massages, facials, and steam showers, along with the relaxation area and garden, and even herbal teas and organic citrus waters. The salon offers haircuts, hairstyling, make-up application, bridal party appointments, manicures, pedicures, and child and teen services. Yoga classes are available through the spa as well, hosted in the spa tree house.
The Shops boutiques, art galleries, and gourmet food establishments offer something for everyone in and around Amelia Island. The Plantation’s Marché Burette and Verandah restaurants are open to the public, as well as PLaE restaurant, and the resort’s night spot, the Falcon’s Nest, which features a brand new “Build Your Own Burger” menu. In addition, The Nature Center has a multitude of activities open to the public. Amelia Island Nature Programs are offered daily for people of all ages and interests, allowing visitors to explore the natural beauty of the island. They include bike and kayak tours, shell and shark tooth hunts, nature crafts, birding, and wildflower tours and more.
Since The Spa & Shops are open daily, there are always special events going on. Their Friday night “Boardwalk Bash” has been a smash hit for several years, offering live music, food, and libations. Every Thursday, Marché Burette features a Low Country Boil. And seasonally, no one does it up better than the Omni Amelia Island Plantation. Visitors can celebrate Christmas and ring in the New Year with a variety of seasonal festivities. Families can enjoy cooking or model boat demonstrations, ride in a horse drawn carriage, or take part in a candlelight and carol service at the Plantation Chapel on Christmas Eve. Other seasonal goings-on include special events for Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Mother’s Day, along with football and fun activities for Georgia Bulldog and Florida Gator football fans.
As one of Florida’s award-winning island destinations, Omni Amelia Island Plantation is recognized for offering a luxury resort experience in perfect harmony with nature, along with a variety of recreational activities for visitors young and old. And Omni is quick to acknowledge what a fabulous partner it has as its host island. Rich in history, Amelia Island is well known for its beautiful beaches, native wildlife, pristine marshes, and scenic waterways, and it has long been a beloved destination for generations of visitors. Since the Plantation was acquired by Omni in late 2010, the oceanfront resort has laid claim to several awards, including AAA Four Diamond status and the Regional Award for Excellence in Economic Development & Tourism by the Northeast Florida Regional Council.
The new Omni Amelia Island Plantation anticipates welcoming guests for the next forty years, and beyond. Although the expansion and re-imagination is expected to be completed in less than a year, Omni continues to search out new ways to make travel to Amelia Island an even more delightful experience. To keep up with renovations, visit their website and watch their progress at www.omnihotels.com/FindAHotel/AmeliaIsland.aspx. Indeed, locals and visitors are watching with great anticipation as Omni extends and preserves the rich legacy of resort living on Amelia Island.