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Whitney Beach owner checks out hotel plans

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  • | 4:00 a.m. September 21, 2011
  • Longboat Key
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Could a hotel check-in at the north end of Longboat Key?

Perhaps, according to a new site-plan draft, obtained by the Longboat Observer, for Whitney Beach Plaza and vacant properties located directly to the north of the shopping center owned by Bill Saba.

Brian Kenney, principal of the Boston-based Juliani Kenney Investment Capital LLC, which bought the plaza for $3.7 million in December and is under contract to buy the Saba-owned land, confirmed his company’s latest plan for the north end. Kenney said that he has not yet submitted the plan to the town for review, because it was created to serve as a starting point for discussions about a hotel, although he has shared the plans with several community leaders, along with current plaza tenants.

“Ultimately, it’s just a draft,” he said. “The way the hotel is laid out in the draft plan will probably look nothing like a hotel would look. This just gives a sense of how things could play out.”

Kenney said that he is in discussions with several hotel chains to bring a 90-to-120-unit “boutique hotel” to the north end. He declined to identify the hotel chains and said he will submit plans to the town once an agreement is secured with a company. The draft includes a swimming pool, restaurant and cabana.

As for the rest of the plaza, Kenney hopes to start renovations in 45 to 60 days and hopes to bring a liquor store to the 12,000-square-foot anchor site that was formerly home to the Market and Whitney Beach Deli & Wines. He also said he is negotiating a lease for a smaller space that will become a sandwich shop and bakery.

Sandra LaRose, co-owner of the plaza’s Design 2000, said she attended the meeting during which Kenney presented the latest plan.

“We are very hopeful that they are able to fulfill their goals,” she said.

However, she said that she is concerned about the time frame, noting that she had hoped that the plaza, which is approximately 85% vacant, would get improvements in time for season.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “But his thought was, ‘We could have a hotel here in two years.’ You’re lucky if you can get a permit here in two years.”

Kenney, who originally hoped to have the majority of the plaza leased by now, said that he, too, is frustrated by the slow pace of developments. During the summer, an anchor tenant, which Kenney now confirms was Walgreens, ended negotiations after both parties did not agree on leasing prices. He believes that a hotel could be the catalyst that drives tenants and traffic to the north end.

“We know that people are frustrated,” he said. “No one is more frustrated than us. Right now, we’re carrying the property, and it’s not making any money for us.”


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