Issues to Watch 2014: Checkout time

 

Issues to Watch 2014: Checkout time

 

Date: January 8, 2014
by: Robin Hartill | News Editor

 
 

Call it the anti-Islandside renovation-and-expansion plan.

The Longboat Key Town Commission approved the the Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort’s renovation and expansion plan at its regular meeting Monday night (see Page 16A).

The process though, didn’t look anything like the one that unfolded when the commission approved the $400 million Longboat Key Club plan with 23 departures from town codes after at least two dozen public hearings — a decision that the 12th Judicial Circuit Court overturned.

That’s because the $30 million plan that Delray Beach-based Ocean Properties Ltd., which also purchased the Key Club in 2012, submitted in September doesn’t seek a single departure from town code.

The site-plan application submitted Sept. 4 calls for redeveloping existing Hilton buildings and the 102 rooms that currently sit on the site, while adding units in a new tower on the property.

As part of the project, the existing tower will be gutted and remodeled, the pool area will be completely redone, and everything to the south of the existing tower will change. The property will get a new lobby building, a new restaurant/meeting space building and the new hotel tower, where all 85 rooms will have views of the Gulf.

The plan’s compliance with town codes drew praise from Planning and Zoning Board members Dec. 17, when they unanimously recommended a site-plan amendment to the commission with one condition: that the applicant work with Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) officials to get a southbound deceleration lane to allow motorists to ease into the lane before making a turn into the hotel.

Commissioners also hope FDOT will consider a crosswalk on Gulf of Mexico Drive in front of the hotel to ease safety concerns.

The Hilton is the first applicant to take advantage of 85 of the town’s pool of 250 tourism units that voters approved in 2008.

The project has been in the works for more than four years.

The resort first submitted an application to the Planning & Zoning Department for 85 additional units in August 2009, the initial deadline the town set after voters approved the units.

The Hilton never completed that application.

But, in 2012, hotel officials began meeting again with town staff, citing improvements to the overall economy and hospitality industry.

Town staff also recommended approval of the site-plan amendment Dec. 17, noting it doesn’t ask for any departures from codes.

“When you think about it, we lost 142 hotel rooms in this same general area when the Holiday Inn closed,” said Senior Planner Steve Schield, at the Dec. 17 P&Z Board meeting. “We are kind of putting many of those units back in the same location where we lost them.”

The Hilton is currently accepting reservations through April 30. Ocean Properties could break ground in May and anticipates the resort will be closed for 18 months during construction.

Ocean Properties Vice President Andy Berger made it clear at the Dec. 17 meeting that his company is ready to get started.

“We are very excited about this project,” Berger said. “We love Longboat Key, and our project estimate for this project now sits at $30 million. When you spend that type of money, you are going to get a first-class resort.”

More rooms
The town lost 142 tourism units when the Longboat Key Holiday Inn closed in 2003.

In its place, construction began on the luxury, 29-unit Positano condominium, where sales have ranged from $2,025,000 to $4.05 million since they hit the market in 2007.

Many Key residents and businesses say the resort’s closing changed the island dramatically, resulting in fewer visitors to the island.

The resort was a higher-priced Holiday Inn with Gulf beach access. It had an indoor playroom and swimming pool, along with an upstairs bar area called the Crow’s Nest where people could watch their children in the pool while they drank a cocktail.

BREAKDOWN
Overview: The Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort is seeking to close for 16 to 18 months to renovate the resort and add 85 additional tourism units.
Players: Ocean Properties Ltd., Longboat Key Town Commission
Timeline: This year

Contact Robin Hartill at rhartill@yourobserver.com

 

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