New marina, residences and convention center expansion on the horizon at Hutchinson Island

For years, the promise of Hutchinson Island, the strip of land separating Georgia and South Carolina, has remained largely unfulfilled, save for the occasional soiree, holiday brunch, car show, or golf game.

That's about to change.

Several developments are underway on the 2,000-acre river island, adding a new apartment complex, marina, hotel and expanded convention center to Savannah's growing list of residential and tourist amenities.

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Convention Center expansion on track for 2023 completion

Announced in 2019, the convention center's $271 million expansion is aimed at allowing the complex to serve larger and more concurrent events.

The expansion includes:

  • Doubling the existing exhibit hall space
  • Adding a new 40,000 square-foot ballroom
  • 15 new meeting rooms
  • 900 new parking spaces

"This is a much needed expansion. It's been in the works for a large number of years... And it puts us in a different league for being able to accommodate larger conventions," said Mark Smith, president of the convention center's board.

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Despite national shortages leading to construction delays, Smith said the convention center is on track for a September 2023 opening. The center has already booked its first post-expansion group contract, according to Visit Savannah. The National Beta Club, a high school academic organization, will host up to 25,000 students in 2024.

Smith hopes to see more groups booked in the coming months.

"We'll have more and larger conventions, which will translate into many more jobs and also more retail sales, tourists or tour tours taken, museums visited, just restaurant meals consumed and will just have a ripple effect throughout the entire tourism industry," Smith said.

The convention center has a $1.4 billion annual impact on Georgia's economy, according to a presentation from the center. Locally, events at the center generate $13.5 million in state and local tax revenue.

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Savannah Harbors: New apartments, marina to break ground

Savannah Harbors, a long-awaited mixed-use development, is breaking ground on its first phase of projects in the coming months, developer John Cay said.

"We've been working on this project for the last decade, and it is finally coming to fruition," Cay said.

Cay, a Savannah native and insurance broker, said he wants the development to help expand Savannah's footprint on both sides of the river.

"All great cities have both sides of the river. Paris has it's Left Bank, Charleston has Mount Pleasant and Daniel Island," Cay said. "So, our mission is to create something extraordinarily special."

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With planned open and green spaces, Cay added, "In time, we think the island will reach its full stature and be an extension of America's most beautiful city."

With the work to run sewage and water lines out to the island long complete, the first phases of construction are ready to begin once investors and operating partners sign on, according to Cay. Dozens of residential lots have been subdivided, making room for single-family homes on the north side of the island, near the golf course, according to city property maps.

The first phase of home construction is anticipated to cost $130 million, according to a 2019 Savannah Morning News report. 

The State of Georgia has finished constructing a new bulkhead for the upcoming marina, Cay said. The developer is working to finalize a marina operator, and will announce the tenant in the coming months. Plans for the number of marina slips and storage options were not available at press time.

The marina will be one of the few places to dock a boat near downtown, and will include parcels for mixed-use developments. Woodfield, a luxury apartment developer, will construct an apartment complex with 286 high-end units, Cay said. Mike Underwood of Woodfield Development confirmed they were pursuing the project, but offered few details.

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"We believe that this is the first olive of out of a jar and and are expecting the rest to come a little more easily," Cay said. "But all of that, of course, will take time."

While original plans for the island's second hotel have fallen through due to COVID-related delays, Cay is pursuing a new hotel manager to help construct and run a boutique offering on the island. Plans for condos and office sites are also in the works, he said.

The site's master plan encompasses several phases — which include plans for a medical complex, senior living facility and retail spaces — to be built over over decades, according to plans submitted to the city.

Zoe covers Growth & Development and the ripple effects change has on communities and infrastructure in the Savannah area. Find her at, @zoenicholson_ on Twitter, and @zoenicholsonreporter on Instagram. 

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: New marina, residences and convention center expansion on the horizon at Hutchinson Island