‘The dream is here’: Dunavant Enterprises Inc., unveils The Henderson

Matt Algarin
It was all smiles during Tuesday’s unveiling of the 171-room luxury resort hotel, The Henderson. Pictured from left are Destin Mayor Mel Ponder; William Hagerman, Dunavant Enterprises, Inc.; William B. Dunavant Jr., Dunavant Enterprises, Inc.; Shelia Johnson, Salamander Hotels & Resorts; and William B Dunavant III, Dunavant Enterprises, Inc.

“A foundation has been set,” as representatives from Dunavant Enterprises Inc., unveiled its vision for the Henderson Beach Resort, which will be anchored by the 171-room luxury resort hotel, The Henderson.

“Are we at the finish line or the starting line,” said William B. Dunavant III, CEO and president of Dunavant Enterprises. “The vision, the dream is here.”

More than 100 local business owners, community leaders and dignitaries, including celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, gathered at the Henderson Park Inn, as the Memphis, Tenn.,-based Dunavant team spoke about the past, present and future of their prized development, which is slated for a Spring 2016 opening.

As part of the project, Dunavant has selected Salamander Hotels & Resorts to manage the project. Salamander currently operates three other properties in Florida — Innisbrook Resort in Tampa Bay, Reunion Resort in Orlando, and Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast. They also recently launched the a Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia.

William Hagerman, senior vice president of development and acquisitions for Dunavant Enterprises, told the crowd that the new resort would feature a family pool with a lazy river, 10,000 square feet of event space and 30,000 square feet of outdoor space.

Guests will arrive in a grand courtyard, which will lead to an expansive living room with high ceilings and a wall of windows that face the preserve and beach, according to a press release. The Henderson will offer sun-lit fitness rooms, in addition to numerous other activities.

Given the properties proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, a “beach club” vibe will be present as guests can enjoy sunset cocktail hours, waterfront dining, and strolls along the sugar white beaches.

“This will be the most exciting luxury beachfront resort to open in the United States in years,” said Prem Devadas, president of Salamander Hotels & Resorts. “The Henderson will become one of the most sought-after group and wedding destinations in the country because of its unique setting, genuinely warm and friendly staff, accessibility and array of activities.”

In addition to the unveiling and a fully-catered lunch, guests were invited to take a tour of the construction site where metal beams and concrete were being erected and poured.

The Henderson project broke ground in January 2014 and future phases of the five-phased Henderson Beach Resort project may add a 95-room beachfront hotel and nearly 200 luxury condominiums. The estimated cost of the overall resort development exceeds $300 million and is expected to create more than 1,557 direct and indirect jobs.

Fore more information about The Henderson, visit

As the patriarch of the Dunavant family, William B. Dunavant Jr. was filled with emotions as he spoke about the project.

“In my mind, it’s been a long time coming,” he said. “I know this is a winner and I know that we picked a winning team.”