Developers are breaking ground Friday on what they describe as a healthy living, calming, lavish resort in North Myrtle Beach called North Beach Plantation.
The "destination" spa at North Beach will have a meditation garden, rooms for Pilates and yoga and world-class decor and services, said Sam Scalise, owner of The Scalise Group, which is developing the property.
"There will be many, many water features throughout the resort to calm you. At the spa, there will be an extremely calming effect because of this garden area," Scalise said.
Experts say the project will be a new - and needed - tourism and real estate amenity.
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"It may cause people to come here instead of go someplace else," said Tom Maeser, president of the Fortune Academy of Real Estate. "The challenge is that it must be competitive with other spa resorts. There's lots of demand for that. It's very popular especially with baby boomers who are going to the Bahamas and Paradise Island for spa resorts."
The resort spans 60 acres from U.S. 17 to the ocean - formerly the Barefoot Campground.
When completed in five years, the resort will hold 800 dwelling units and 70,000 square feet of commercial space.
The economic impact of the resort will be substantial.
A study by Coastal Carolina University for the city of North Myrtle Beach says North Beach Plantation will bring $1.5 million to the city's budget annually.
The project will increase Horry County's total employment by 1,900 jobs.
The report estimates North Beach Plantation's total economic impact will be $1 billion.
Construction by Winchester Development has begun on the twin, oceanfront North Beach Towers that will be built in classic Georgian architecture.
Two arches will connect the 18-story towers - the upper arch on the 13th and 14th floors will have a two-story upscale restaurant and piano bar with views of the ocean and marsh.
The lower arch on the third floor will have a breakfast and lunch restaurant, Scalise said.
The remaining 53 acres will be mostly single-family with some condominiums for spa guests nestled around the live oak trees.
"There is also going to be an extremely upscale fitness center with a 4½-mile walking path around the resort, which will have exercise stations," Scalise said. "We're promoting healthy living."
A village center, called The Exchange, will have boutiques, restaurants, retail and office space with condominium living above.
"There will be no vehicular traffic. It will have the feel of a European piazza with outdoor dining," Scalise said.
A plantation home will be built at the front of the property with the spa and fitness center as a "grand reception hall" for check-in, Scalise said. All of this will be open to the public.
Scalise is also building a chapel on the property using doors and pews from an English chapel built in the 1800s.
The towers, retail, spa and fitness center will be completed in two years. The first homes sold - which will be released for sale within six months - will be ready to move in by next year.
Overall plans have been approved by the city of North Myrtle Beach, but some changes are under review.
While the local real estate market has slowed due to a glut of homes for sale, Scalise said he expects North Beach's uniqueness to sell itself.
"The market with so many homes is very competitive. I don't think North Beach Plantation will be affected because it's such a unique product and there is nothing else like it," he said.
Home buyers will be able to catch a shuttle from their home to the beach and can use all six oceanfront pools in the towers, which will offer private cabanas, and pools for kids or pools for a relaxing afternoon.
"The day I saw this property I had a vision of what this could turn into, and it's coming to fruition. I imagined five years from now driving through there with my grandson telling him about the vision I had," he said.
MB Base official joins McCaffery
The man who has led the vision for the redevelopment of the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base will oversee the building of The Market Common on the base.
Buddy Styers, executive director of the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base Redevelopment Authority, has joined McCaffery Interests as project manager for the coming urban village Market Common.
Styers is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel.
"I think it's absolutely terrific. I didn't seek the job. They called me the first week of December and said, 'We need somebody to be in charge locally,'" Styers said.
Styers said he will remain executive director of the redevelopment authority until it dissolves but recuse himself if McCaffery Interests needs to present something to the board.
Work with the redevelopment authority was winding down and no longer required full-time attention, he said.
"I knew that at some point I could not sit here and get paid for a full-time job when we're managing no projects of our own," Styers said.
"We have done what we set out to do, which was work ourselves out of a job."
Styers will now work one day as director and four days a week for McCaffery.
He said he checked with the S.C. Ethics Commission and received confirmation that he wasn't violating rules.