From The Blog

What West Beach Revitalization Can Do for You

Kiawah’s Gateway
West Beach is the gateway to Kiawah. It needs a “wow factor” to create a positive first impression for visitors, provide homeowners with the beauty they appreciate in their daily surroundings, and reassure those returning after an absence that their investment is secure. However, West Beach is the oldest part of the island and has experienced overgrown or inadequately maintained landscaping, deficient covenant compliance, and aging exteriors of some homes, cottages and villas, as well as the demise of the Kiawah Inn and the diminished role of the Straw Market in community life.

What Creates Value
Permar Associates, headed by Kiawah’s Mark and Diana Permar, surveyed owners in a wide range of coastal golf communities in the Southeast and Diana created a list of factors that create value in a community:

• A lasting clear vision for the community,
• Natural beauty and efforts to preserve it,
• Financial stability,
• Safety and security,
• Maintaining a high quality of landscaping and facilities once the community is no longer new,
• Quality of development—infrastructure, amenities and architectural control,
• Quality of programs and services to facilitate the social infrastructure, and
• Ongoing marketing and communications efforts.

Kiawah scores well on these measures and the West Beach revitalization project is designed to ensure that the island continues to do so.

Revitalization Project
To do its part in addressing the needs of West Beach and to model what can be done in all aging areas of Kiawah, the KICA board and staff have committed to a comprehensive project to improve streetscapes and entries to neighborhoods, including landscaping, signage, lighting and trails. The association has budgeted $85,000 in 2012 for enhanced landscaping along Kiawah Beach Drive to the Straw Market and around key intersections within the west beach core area (see the project details on Page 2). It has determined to step up covenant compliance efforts.
It is coordinating an effort to encourage all land-owning entities and individuals in West Beach to join the project. In addition to improving Kiawah’s gateway, the project will benefit the rest of Kiawah by helping to boost property values.

The Fairway Oaks Story
Fairway Oaks provides evidence that those who improve and maintain their properties will ultimately be rewarded. Every five years, the Fairway Oaks regime replaces rotten windows and wood and restains the building exteriors. In 2008-09, owners agreed to spend $8,000 each on a $600,000 beautification project, which included new leisure paths, roofs, low-voltage lighting, landscaping, and tree trimming.

According to Lewis Driskell of Kiawah Island Real Estate, who tracks sales data, Fairway Oaks is now outselling villas in the rest of West Beach. In the three years 2009-2011, 11 of 17, or 65%, of the two-and three-bedroom villas sold in West Beach were in Fairway Oaks. “Where are buyers buying?” Lewis remarked. “In the communities that are most attractive, and that they believe offer the best long-term value, both in terms of resale and rentals. Since the renovations and beautification of Fairway Oaks, that is the only West Beach community continuing to yield sales year after year.”

West Beach Sales Prices
Kiawah’s average home sales prices are enviably high, the highest in the southeastern US except for Sea Island, Georgia, according to Diana Permar. However, a disparity currently exists between prices realized in West Beach and the rest of the island. The average selling prices of lots and residences in West Beach, both single family and in regimes, tend to be lower than those on the rest of the island.

A comparison of aggregate sales prices 2000-2004 and 2005-2011 by Permar Associates shows that the gap has increased since the closing of the inn, particularly for lots and for non-ocean-front villas. The Permar statistics show that average closing prices since 2005 for lots and for single family homes are more than 1/3 lower in West Beach than on the rest of Kiawah.

A number of factors could account for the discrepancy. Single family homes east of West Beach are usually newer and larger, with more features, and architectural style has changed since the 1980s. Lots, although not affected by aging of the structures, tend to be larger east of West Beach. The Kiawah Island Inn closed in 2004, but demolition dragged on until this past year. The closing of the inn and development of Freshfields reduced the viability of the Straw Market, a gathering place for the West Beach community.

The goal for the future is that all owners—KICA, the developer, the resort, the regimes and individual owners—maintain and improve their properties in order to keep Kiawah special and remain at the top of the national real estate market. As the resort’s two new pools in West Beach are completed, more regimes undertake improvement projects, the community association invests money in the area to build up infrastructure and improve appearances, and the PGA focuses national and international attention on all of Kiawah, West Beach homeowners can expect to see stronger sales volume and prices, and that trend will benefit all Kiawah homeowners.