The Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort is no longer a Hilton.
The hotel is open, but the Hilton sign and flag have disappeared from the property. The pool and spa are also open, but the restaurant and bar have closed.
It’s a strange start to the summer at the hotel site, where construction on a new renovation and expansion project was scheduled to begin no later than June 1.
A white tarp placed over the Hilton sign now dubs the property at 4711 Gulf of Mexico Drive the Gulfside Beach Resort.
The Hilton’s sign’s departure, though, shouldn’t be surprising to Longboaters.
Ocean Properties Vice President Andy Berger told the Longboat Observer in January that to keep the Hilton flag flying on the property, renovations had to begin by June 1, and that hasn’t happened. There have also been discussions about the new hotel carrying a different flag or an independent name, such as the Gulfside Beach Resort, after the project is complete.
Asked for an update on the hotel and the construction timeline, Berger and Longboat Key Club Director of Communications Sandra Rios declined to comment.
Town officials and the company’s Sarasota-based attorney, though, aren’t concerned.
Planning, Zoning and Building Director Alaina Ray confirmed the company filed last week for a demolition permit for the project.
“We are about to approve that, and they told us we can expect them to file for their building permit plans any day now,” Ray said.
Ocean Properties submitted plans to the town in September that call for 85 additional tourism units as part of an estimated $24 million project.
The Hilton project is the first applicant to take advantage of a town-wide 250 tourism unit pool that’s been waiting for applicants to seek additional units since 2008.
The site-plan application submitted calls for redeveloping existing Hilton buildings and the 102 rooms that currently sit on the site while also acquiring those 85 additional units that would be used for a new tower on the property.
Ray said she was told Ocean Properties is also beginning a hotel renovation for a Clearwater property, which has led to a small delay of the Longboat Key renovation project.
Attorney John Patterson also said there’s no cause for concern.
“It might be delayed a bit,” Patterson said. “But if there was a problem or a hiccup, I would have heard about it, and I’ve heard nothing.”
Spanish Main Yacht Club resident and Longboat Key Revitalization Task Force Vice Chairman Tom Freiwald said he took a stroll through the property with his wife last week because he was curious when he saw the Hilton sign covered.
“There’s beach furniture on the beach and a hot tub running, but there’s no place to eat or have a drink and there’s only a handful of cars in the parking lot,” Freiwald said. “It seems silly to keep just the hotel open for a few bucks when there’s nothing else to offer on the site.”
The longboatkeyhilton.com website directs guests to the gulfsidebeachresort.com website. Reservations, though, aren’t currently being accepted past June 30.
The hotel will close for 16 to 18 months after a permit is submitted and work begins.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].