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South Carolina Islanders Brace For Luxury ‘EcoTourism’ Development

Six Senses of Bangkok has announced plans for a three-island “regenerative luxury” resort and spa in the Palmetto Lowcountry …

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South Carolina’s southern island residents are bracing for the potential impact of a multi-island, luxury eco-tourism spa and resort set to open in 2026. Six Senses of Bangkok, Thailand recently announced plans to open the international luxury resort company’s first U.S. location on Hilton Head Island, Daufuskie Island and Bay Point Island.

“After a few years in the making, we’re delighted and excited to be partnering with Whitestone and Redrock in the creation of two special connected communities that speak to the beauty of their environments and honor the people and culture of the area,” Six Senses CEO Neil Jacobs said in a statement. “We have the right elements and energy in place to marry these incredible coastal landscapes with a wellness and sustainability formula that rewilds people back to a connection with nature, each other, and ultimately themselves.”

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The ambitious project, detailed in the company’s February announcement, would include a hotel management agreement between Six Senses, Whitestones Resources of Boston, and Redrock Portfolio.

“Whitestone strives to nurture and celebrate the critical connection between the human experience and the ecosystems that sustain us,” Timothy Pitcher of Whitestone in a press release. “The thrill of innovation resonates in every thought and design as we weave a canvas that intertwines regenerative luxury with the roots of our existence. This project is a celebration of Six Senses and Whitestone’s shared vision to seamlessly blend integrated wellness with the untamed beauty of the natural world, redefine living spaces with a commitment to ecological mindfulness, quite literally sowing the seeds of a new era.”

Despite this promising vision, some residents are concerned about the development’s potential impact on their homes and livelihoods.

“A lot of us on Hilton Head Island are concerned with the coming of Whitestone and the projects involved,” one source told us. “Many on the island are not aware of the impact that these developments can have on three separate islands.”

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THREE ISLANDS

On Hilton Head Island, Six Senses announced plans for a resort welcome hub and embarkation point. 

“This will serve as the main welcome hub and entry point to the resort and residences, offering a bespoke restaurant and retail outlet,” Six Senses announced. “As a gateway to life on the water, it will also serve as a convenient embarkation point for Six Senses guests and residents to hop aboard a hybrid yacht or electric boat to begin their adventure with a ride on the beautiful Intercoastal Waterway.”

On Daufuskie Island, the company has plans to take over the abandoned Melrose Resort and rebrand it as the Six Senses South Carolina Islands resort and spa with visitor rooms, suites and cottages – as well as facilities for a host of wellness services and amenities.  

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Melrose resort (Six Senses)

The company’s footprint on Daufuskie Island will not be limited to the Melrose Resort property, however.

“Because well-being extends to hosts, village homes are also being constructed on Daufuskie Island,” said the Six Senses announcement. “The new units will be integrated to provide quality residential housing and community amenities for hosts and islanders.”   

Perhaps the most controversial part of the Six Senses South Carolina Islands planning involves Bay Point Island – and specifically land which has been deemed un-developable by conservationists. 

“With a design ethos inspired by the coastal charm of the American South, the modular, Category 5 hurricane-resistant, biophilic, and self-sustaining branded residential villas of Bay Point Island will set new standards for sustainable living,” Six Senses announced. “Leveraging state-of-the-art waste management systems, renewable energy sources, reverse-osmosis water supplies, and innovative helical piling techniques to minimize soil disturbance, these villas epitomize eco-conscious luxury living. A limited selection of these villas will be available for purchase in 2024, offering discerning buyers an opportunity to embrace a lifestyle of harmony with nature.”

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Artist’s rendering of the proposed Six Senses development on Bay Point Island. (Six Senses)

The S.C. Coastal Conservation League (SCCCL) has voiced strong opposition to the plans for Bay Point Island.

“Any reference to development on Bay Point Island, a vulnerable barrier island at the mouth of the Port Royal Sound, is extremely concerning,” the League said in a statement. “The island has no infrastructure — no roads, water, sewer, or power — and is only accessible by boat or air. It is a dynamically shifting piece of sand, and siting new development there is irresponsible. Indeed, it is questionable whether the plans described in IHG’s press release are even allowed under current zoning.”

There are other obstacles to the multi-island development, as well.

The Melrose Resort property development plans on Daufuskie Island hit a snag when the Melrose dock was condemned by the Beaufort County Council in 2022 – a maneuver that put the essential infrastructure asset in the public domain. The unresolved transportation issue delayed the sale of the Melrose real estate.

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On Hilton Head Island, residents are awaiting the specifics in light of current parking shortages and traffic congestion problems. They are concerned that the current infrastructure is not sufficient to support the proposed development. So far, many of the specifics remain a mystery.

FITSNews reached out to the US spokesperson for Six Senses in an attempt to learn more of the details about the locations of the proposed development, expected visitor traffic and the number of jobs that will be created.

“It is early days for the project and the only information we have at this time is what is included in the press release,” said Tammy Peters of Media Mixology.

While county officials have so far remained largely silent on matters involving the islands and the proposed development, multiple sources told FITSNews it will be up to new leadership to resolve the outstanding issues.  

Beaufort County will be under new management on July 1, 2024 when Michael R. Moore assumes office as the new county administrator.  The 27-year Navy veteran from York County was selected after a national search. John Robinson has served as interim county administrator since the termination of former administrator Eric Greenway in July 2023. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Callie Lyons (provided)

Callie Lyons is a journalist, researcher and author. Her 2007 book ‘Stain-Resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof and Lethal’ was the first to cover forever chemicals and their impact on communities – a story later told in the movie ‘Dark Waters’. Her investigative work has been featured in media outlets, publications, and documentaries all over the world. Lyons also appears in ‘Citizen Sleuth’ – a 2023 documentary exploring the genre of true crime.

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7 comments

jfh3rd Top fan June 19, 2024 at 4:08 pm

Oh f’k. Here we go again…..

Reply
Charles Black Top fan June 19, 2024 at 5:45 pm

Out on Daufuski Island, the bulldozers bury the past;
And the Lowcountry sinks, she cannot swim;
The dogwood feels the hurt.
While a foursome plays on borrowed days
In their alligator shirts.
Now I realize who killed the Prince of Tides.
How can you tell how it used to be
When there’s nothin’ left to see?
— Jimmy Buffett, “The Prince of Tides”

Reply
Steve Vogel Top fan June 20, 2024 at 9:38 am

Yet another reason to not visit HHI.

Reply
Avatar photo
VERITAS Top fan June 20, 2024 at 10:19 am

More foreign development sucking up and moving out of the country our American dollars.

Reply
CongareeCatfish Top fan June 20, 2024 at 10:39 am

You want a real ecotourism experience? Take a multi-day canoe trip down the Edisto River and stay a day or two at the delightful Edisto Treehouses – no electricity or running water, but quaint little houses built up in the trees with screened windows and doors to keep out the mosquitos….all on land placed in a conservation easement. Twenty years ago, you could stay there for a weekend for about 60 bucks per person – now its so popular it costs as much as a4 star hotel in Charleston – people fly in from Europe for this experience. I wish someone would build something similar on the Broad or upper Saluda!

Reply
MaryContrary Top fan June 20, 2024 at 1:22 pm

New Age?

Reply
Karla Clark Top fan June 23, 2024 at 2:05 pm

The developers of Melrose now are not embracing anything that is Daufuskie Island.
They are putting local businesses under due to ever expanding charges and are building fences to block us out.

Reply

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