Ahead of their sales center opening in less than two weeks, owners of a new Jimmy Buffett-themed community in Hardeeville are trying to gauge interest in the development — and discourage a mass campout by Parrotheads eager to reserve a lot.
“We’re trying to avoid the necessity for people to camp out to get a position in line,” said Bill Bullock, senior vice president at Minto Communities, a residential building group partnering with commercial developer Sutton Properties Inc. and Buffett’s Margaritaville brand to bring Latitude Margaritaville Hilton Head to Jasper County. “So, we’re really trying not to promote (camping out).”
But that’s exactly what happened in Daytona Beach, Fla., when Minto opened its Margaritaville sales center at that forthcoming development in October.
More than 200 people camped out there overnight, Bullock told the Daytona Beach News-Journal last year, adding that he’d expected only between 40 and 50 to do so. And the Ormond Beach Observer reported that people were having to park seven minutes away.
A Minto news release Wednesday morning said “more than 100,000 prospective buyers” have already registered to receive more information about the Hardeeville community, designed for about 3,000 homes on roughly 2,700 acres off U.S. 278, just a few miles from Interstate 95.
Roughly the same number of people signed up for email notifications ahead of the Daytona Beach opening, Bullock told the Observer last year.
Minto will have golf carts on site to shuttle prospective buyers back and forth on Feb. 17, when the Hardeeville sales center opens — and when buyers can first put down a $10,000 deposit to reserve a lot ahead of final contractor meetings, which will take place three weeks later.
Developers and city and state officials are developing plans to handle parking, traffic flow and public safety, in general.
Bullock, of course, doesn’t know how many folks will show up.
“We’re gauging the interest right now,” he said. “It does appear to be high.”
But this time, in an attempt to tamp down the pressure, Minto has built in a three-week “preview period” between the Hardeeville center’s opening and March 10, when buyers will sign contracts to begin construction of their homes. So, while people are welcome to put down an early deposit to reserve a lot at the opening, they don’t have to — they just might not get the lot they want. And still, the process is “first come, first serve,” Bullock recently said.
Hardeeville City Manager Michael Czymbor said Minto has been coordinating with the city’s fire and police departments and the S.C. Department of Transportation to develop a plan for traffic. Details of that plan still are being worked out, he said. Minto will pay the city for those services, a price that has not yet been determined.
“We want to keep people safe,” Czymbor said. “We want people to enjoy the event. And we hope their opening goes well.”
A publicly accessible retail center and hotel also are being planned for the development.
While the sales center is not yet physically open, it began taking calls last Friday. And sales center staff said they’ve had to turn people away who’ve showed up at the building hoping to see the place before it opens.
As of Wednesday, most of the inside of the building was finished, and a sales-training meeting took place in one of its conference rooms.
A wall of TVs stands ready for prospective buyers, who can use the touch screens to view different floor plans, paint schemes and furniture options.
And an air freshener pumped out a subtle, tropical scent.