Zota Beach Resort welcomes its first guests with grand opening on June 23.
What's it like?
The newest boutique resort on Longboat Key features modern decor with blues, grays and other calming colors that match the Gulf of Mexico.
Sandra Rios, director of marketing and communications for the Resort at Longboat Key Club, Lido Beach Resort and Zota, said the glamour of Zota blends nicely with surrounding Longboat complexes.
“It’s nice to have some contemporary on the island,” she said.
The resort is the fifth one in the area for Ocean Properties, a Delray Beach-based company that also owns the Resort at Longboat Key Club, Lido Beach Holiday Inn, Lido Beach Resort and Sandcastle Resort at Lido Beach. Zota is the first resort for OPL in Manatee County.
There are 84 rooms open to guests in the totally renovated former Hilton building. A new tower, which houses 103 rooms, is set to open this fall. As of opening weekend, about 80% of the rooms available had been booked. The Cascades Pool Bar and Viento Kitchen & Bar are both open to the public.
Room rates through Dec. 24 range from $284 for a king room with a partial-water view to $411 for a one-bedroom suite, when booked before June 30. Rates rise to between $379 and $549 when booked after June 30.
— Katie Johns
Last calendar year, Longboat Key had 70,000 visitors stay in short-term rentals on the north end.
With the opening of Zota Beach Resort, Elliott Falcione, the Manatee County Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director, said that number could increase, conservatively, by 30%.
Falcione said the north end of Longboat Key has needed short-term rental bedstock ever since the Hilton closed.
“Adding a four-star plus hotel, like Zota, is much needed and will feed other businesses,” he said.
With the closing of the Holiday Inn in 2003, Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce President Gail Loefgren said that the island started to lose its churn of fresh visitors. The new resort will help replace some of that, she said.
Visit Sarasota County Vice President Erin Duggan said though people don’t care what county they’re in when traveling, the resort will increase tourism capacity for everyone.
85 of 250 tourism units
Zota is the first development to draw from the town’s tourism-unit pool, which was created and approved by nearly 90% of Key voters in 2008. Zota received 85 of the 250 units, leaving 165.
In May, Carla and Pete Rowan of Keep Longboat Special sent an email to the group’s members, as well as the Town Commission, suggesting ways to preserve the Key’s residential ambiance, including a new referendum to eliminate the tourism-unit pool.
“Certainly parcels will need to be redeveloped to appeal to today’s buyers, but for the most part leave the tourist units in Sarasota, Lido Key, and Anna Maria Island,” the email read. “We can be the residential haven.”
The Rowans argued the results of density referendums indicate Key residents prefer to see future development similar to Positano, a 29-unit luxury condo.
Mayor Terry Gans said such issues call for “real, rational thought” about the future, and cautioned against “absolutist points of view.”
Gans said the tourism pool was created to replace what had been lost, referring to the Key’s decrease in 250 hotel units between 2004 and 2008, with the intention of providing business to local retailers and restaurants.
“Sometimes all of us need to take a deep breath,” he said.
— John McGuire
The buzz on the island
Lenny Landau of the Revitalization Task Force sees Zota as a benefit for the community.
“We need it,” Landau said. “I’m glad to see it open.”
Landau does not believe the resort will have a negative impact on traffic, and said the added tourism will provide Key retailers and restaurants with vital business during the offseason. He also looks forward to having a new restaurant option.
David Lapovsky is president of Preserve Longboat, a resident group closely following development issues. He does not feel Zota was developed “in the interest of preserving the charm of Longboat Key,” especially regarding density.
“It’s too much for too small a piece of property,” Lapovsky said.
Though former Commissioner Pat Zunz has yet to visit Zota, she said friends of hers who enjoyed breakfast at the resort over the weekend said the experience was “perfectly nice.”
However, a concern of hers lingers. “I never felt the parking was resolved properly,” Zunz said.
With an influx of pedestrians, resident Larry Grossman hopes the town will implement a new crosswalk.
“You’re going to have more folks there,” Grossman said. “People need a safe place to cross.”
— John McGuire
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