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Longboat Key Monday, Jun. 28, 2021 1 year ago

St. Regis developer hopes to start construction by October

Construction was initially supposed to start in July.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Unicorp CEO Chuck Whittall wishes construction could start sooner on The Residences at The St. Regis Longboat Key Resort.

The Orlando-based developer’s initial plans had called for a July groundbreaking.

“It’s extremely disappointing,” Whittall said. “We’ve been working on this project for eight and a half years and I would love to have gotten it in this session.”

Whittall said he hopes construction can start in October. On Monday, Whittall said crews would be ready to start work in four weeks if the town had already approved the proposed changes.

The Longboat Key Town Commission is set to take its annual summer recess following the July 2 regular meeting. Commissioners are not set to meet again until Sept. 13.

“We are finally at the point where we’re ready to start this and the changes that we’re making are very, very, very minor, but they still have to go to the commission,” Whittall said.

First, the Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board has set a special meeting date for Sept. 17 to hear the St. Regis amendment application. If the P&Z Board approves the proposal, it will then appear before the Town Commission.

Planning, Zoning and Building Director Allen Parsons said the Town Commission would likely schedule its own special meetings for October.

“The staff sense is that this probably ought to be on its own agenda,” Town Manager Tom Harmer told commissioners on June 21. “It’s a big enough project, and in the past, it’s been held as a single item.”

In May, Unicorp and engineering consultants Kimley-Horn finalized a 552-page application about the proposed changes.

Specifically, Unicorp plans to reduce the number of residential units at the facility from 78 to 69 units. Also, two of the 69 units in the condominium portion of the property would be available for occupancy for less than 30 consecutive calendar days or one calendar month, whichever is less.

The development still plans to have 166 hotel rooms for a total of 235 units.

Unicorp is also proposing some changes to height around elevator shafts on the roof and some levels of public-space occupancy.

“What we’re doing is non-controversial,” Whittall said. “They’re minor changes.”

In April, town commissioners approved Town Attorney Maggie Mooney’s request to have special legal counsel serve town staff as it deals with the proposed changes to the St. Regis development. Jennifer Cowan with the Tampa-based law firm of Bryant Miller Olive is set to fill in for Mooney as it pertains to the St. Regis public hearings.

Retaining Cowan allows Mooney to avoid any potential conflict of interest. Harmer said the town had also hired outside counsel when commissioners approved Unicorp’s initial plan in March 2018.

Unicorp will own the 17.6-acre property at 1620 Gulf of Mexico Drive, and the Marriott & Co. will manage it under the St. Regis banner.

Whittall said Unicorp has sold 80% of its residential units, which has surpassed the developer’s goal to have 50% sold by the time construction started.

Units range from about 1,500 square feet to nearly 6,000 and from one bedroom, one-and-one-half baths to four bedrooms, five-and-one-half baths.

“I would hope the town is excited to see this project underway,” Whittall said.

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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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