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Floridays nixes plan for Longboat Key hotel

Residential development is likely for parcels that were part of the failed plan for a 120-unit hotel.

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  • | 12:51 p.m. September 19, 2016
Sarasota developer Floridays will no longer work to redevelop former commercial properties on the north end of Longboat Key.
Sarasota developer Floridays will no longer work to redevelop former commercial properties on the north end of Longboat Key.
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Whatever is next for the 2.6 acres where Floridays Development Co. wanted to build a 120-unit, four-story hotel on north Longboat Key, it won’t involve the Sarasota-based developer.

“We are done,” said James Brearley, Floridays project manager. “I don’t know what will be done with the site. I really don’t know.”

Brearley said Floridays is in the process of terminating its contract to redevelop the Whitney Beach commercial properties with the three sets of property owners.

“We were optioned to purchase the parcel,” Brearley said. “Our interest in the site was hotel development. Without referendum approval, we can’t put anything there with beds. We’re at the point where we can’t put a hotel project of any kind there. So, we’re done.”

William Saba, who co-owns six of the parcels, said he, too, isn’t sure what’s next, although he has a vague idea: 

“Everybody seems to be in agreement the best use is residential for the property that was the subject of the referendum,” he said.

Saba said he is likely to confer with owners of the other parcels included in the referendum before moving forward.

Voters put an end to plans for the proposed North End Hotel and Beach Club in the Aug. 30 primary election that included the density referendum pertaining to the project on the ballot. Out of 3,104 votes cast, 78% percent rejected the referendum.

“I can’t say I was surprised or not surprised,” Saba said. “The community looked at it and decided a certain thing was going to happen, and it happened.”

The Town Commission agreed to put the question on the ballot after Floridays asked for more density for a new hotel. 

Many voters cited concerns over increased traffic as a major reason they opposed the hotel proposal. But others cited the need to revitalize properties such as the long-vacant gas station and a bank building included in the plan.

Craig Walters, chairman of the Keep Longboat Special group lobbying against the hotel, has supported using the Whitney Beach area properties as green space.

“I remain hopeful that the town will give serious consideration to purchase of the gas station at Broadway and GMD as a proactive step, if not a permanent solution,” Walters wrote in an email to Mayor Jack Duncan. “My personal recommendation is open space — conservation. Should the town turn the gas station into a green space of native plants, the investment and maintenance would be modest and the benefit for all residents and visitors quite immediate.”

Walters has also said low-density residential use would be a positive option.

If approved, the referendum would have paved the way for Floridays to build up to six units per acre on the 2.6-acre parcels, or 15 units. Floridays could have then applied for an additional 105 units from a pool of 250 tourism units that voters approved in 2008.

The pool was created in part as a response to the loss of 146 island hotel rooms that occurred when the Holiday Inn closed in 2003 to make way for the luxury Positano condominium.

Five years later, recognizing the need for more hotel rooms on the Key, voters approved a referendum to create a bank of 250 tourism units that could be divided up among new developments.

Delray Beach-based Ocean Properties Ltd. received approval for 85 units for the new Zota Beach Resort that will replace the Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort. Zota is expected to open Dec. 1.

Eight years after voters approved the tourism pool, 165 units remain available.


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