A master plan by World Golf Village's new leader
is starting to pay dividends.
By Chuck Day
By now it's clear that "build it and they will come" doesn't apply to golf developments in northeast Florida. But "market it and they will come" just might. The World Golf Hall of Fame and Village near St. Augustine is at last gathering momentum after a faltering debut in mid-1998. And much of the credit goes to Bruce Lucker, chief operating officer of the World Golf Hall of Fame and World Golf Village Associates, the umbrella marketing organization for the complex.
A New York marketing whiz who put fresh bounce into Radio City Music Hall and the Rockettes, Lucker was summoned to Florida in early 1999 by World Golf Village investors and partners -- including Davidson Development of St. Augustine, Pittsburgh-based Hillman Properties, PGA Tour and other pro golf associations -- to fashion a master marketing plan for the 6,000-acre complex that stretches along I-95 in northern St. Johns County. The scope of the Village -- two celebrated golf courses, a variety of residences, retail shops, two hotels and a convention center all built around the centerpiece Hall of Fame -- persuaded Lucker to sign on.
Phase 1 of Lucker's marketing strategy focused on wooing area residents with such attendance-boosting events as Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, weekend fireworks displays and a concert series featuring the Jacksonville Symphony, plus performers ranging from Dixieland bands to Irish folk singers.
"Nothing was wrong with the product," Lucker insists. "What was missing was a coordinated integrated marketing effort. We continue to look at ourselves as the world center of golf and a place to incubate the new ideas of the sport and communicate its values."
By year-end, 90% of the 80,000 square feet of retail and office space surrounding the Hall of Fame should be filled, according to Cousins Market Centers, the Atlanta-based property management company that manages part of the complex. Some 7,000 square feet of retail/office space was filled late last year, and 8,000 more will be in operation by mid-year, when a second restaurant opens. Murray Brothers Caddy Shack, a prototype of a nationwide chain of upscale, entertainment-oriented eateries inspired by the movie Caddy Shack, will join Sam Snead's Tavern, which opened last October. Cousins is negotiating a lease for another 6,000 to 7,000 square feet.
Meanwhile, occupancy at the Renaissance Resort was up eight percentage points in 2000, and general manager Jeff Johnson anticipates 2001 occupancy will climb another 10%.
Glenmoor, a retirement community due to open this summer, had sold more than 100 of its 133 single- and multi-unit residences -- at six-figure prices.
Now, the Hall of Fame and Village is poised to activate phase 2 of Lucker's strategy, which includes spreading the word throughout the Southeast and along the East Coast.
In the News
Fernandina Beach -- Nautica Enterprises decided to base its new 16-person golf division here, not in New York, because its first president, golf apparel veteran Fran Matthews, lives in Fernandina Beach. Nautica expects its new line, which debuts in July, to generate $8 million in sales.
Gainesville -- In response to declining passenger traffic, Gainesville Airport is beefing up marketing with a new logo, a new slogan -- "Fly Easy. Fly Gainesville" -- and an airport business center. Traffic at the airport slipped to 288,589 in 2000 from 307,129 in 1999. Meanwhile, the city and Alachua County will ask the Legislature to abolish the airport's nine-member board, which has been more combative than useful.
Jacksonville -- The average price investors paid for area shopping centers built since 1990 declined to $141 a square foot in 2000, compared to $154 in 1999, according to a report by Cushman & Wakefield. The study notes that in 1996 the average price at the same properties cost a mere $55 a square foot. Six deals valued at $40 million were closed last year.
Both the City Council and the area's state legislators approved splitting the Jacksonville Port Authority into two separate bodies, one to oversee the city's four airports, the other its three marine terminals.
First Coast Rainguard, a 6-year-old maker of construction and remodeling products, plans a $900,000 expansion that includes a new office-showroom-warehouse. The expansion will add 20 jobs to the 30-person operation.
The Technology Enterprise Center on the city's Southside is already planning to expand. Opened last December by Enterprise North Florida, the 20,000-sq.-ft. business incubator is exercising its option on an additional 15,000 square feet. The center plans to add sites, possibly in Orange Park or Fernandina Beach.
The former Jacksonville Shipyard property near Alltel Stadium will be transformed into 600 homes, boat slips, 1 million square feet of office space, some retail space and a park. The $900-million project, planned for the next 10 to 12 years, will cover 27.5 acres, plus another 16.5 submerged acres that could be filled in. The plans were announced by ICS Logistics, an umbrella company of the Spence family of Jacksonville, which owns the property.
The Tourist Development Council is studying whether to expand the 100,000-sq.-ft. Prime Osborne Convention Center. Some business leaders want the city to build a facility downtown, closer to Jacksonville's hotels, and return Osborne to its original use as a railroad station.
Jasper -- D&W Construction is moving its headquarters from Alpharetta, Ga., to Jasper and bringing about 69 jobs. D&W uses technology to clean and replace sewers without digging up roadways or adjacent lands. D&W will occupy the 73,000-sq.-ft. building that once housed Jasper Textile Co. Refurbishing the site will take five to six months, but the company hopes to be in temporary quarters there by April 1.
MacClenny-- Wal-Mart Stores is breaking ground this month on its $40-million distribution center in Macclenny. The center will initially employ 350 when completed in two years, but its payroll could rise to 600.
Ocala -- Class 1, a $25-million manufacturer of plumbing systems and wire harnesses for emergency vehicles, is now part of IDEX Corp., Northbrook, Ill. Class 1 President Ray Ewers and his 235 employees all remain.
St. Augustine -- Serenata Beach Club, the last available zoned oceanfront development in northeast Florida, will open by May five miles north of St. Augustine. The clubhouse alone cost developer Fletcher Land Corp. $8 million. The project's condominiums will cost from $700,000 to $1 million. Club memberships will average $5,500.