For almost four decades the structure that came to be known as the Bank of America building sat gloomily like a giant brick with mouseholes on some of Flagler Beach’s prime real estate, at South 3rd Street and South Ocean Shore Boulevard, its brutalist squareness at odds with the charms of the boardwalk across the street or the more modest businesses along A1A.
That’s finally about to change. Last week the Flagler Beach City Commission approved plans to make over the building into seven efficiency-apartment type vacation rentals upstairs and clothing and gift shops downstairs, what will be called Ocean Club.
“It’s nice to see an old building revitalized in the city,” Mayor Suzie Johnston said.
“You would never know it was the same building,” Commissioner Rick Belhumeur said.
For the city, it is the second transformative makeover proposed for downtown, both of them significant attempts to capitalize on the city’s attraction as a tourist destination. Last November, the owner of the now permanently vacant land west of Veterans Park, where the farmer’s market used to sprawl every weekend, announced plans for a 97-room hotel there. Though it won’t be called Hotel Phoenix, the project will revive what had been a hotel there for decades until the early 1970s.
The building at 300 South Ocean Shore Boulevard will grow by several hundred square feet. Based on preliminary renderings, the building’s bland facade will give way to stucco, hardy board lapped siding, large bay windows, balconies, awnings, faux window accents, Bahama shutters, accent lighting fixtures, flower beds and a sense of openness more in keeping with a beachfront building. The building will have a window-to-wall ratio of between 25 and 40 percent. The first floor will be rebuilt first, and by the time the second floor is completed, the building height will have risen slightly, to 34 feet.
No zoning changes are necessary: the building sits in downtown’s mixed-use district, zoned general commercial, though it must follow downtown design guidelines–the sort of guidelines the city adopted to prevent the design of structures incongruous with their surroundings. A building with those uses would require 17 parking spaces. Twenty-one spaces (up from 16 currently) will be available in the lot in back of the building. The city’s planning board and city commissions had to approve the plan, however, because the renovations add space that exceeds 10 percent of the first-floor area.
The project is the work of Pinchas Mamane of Ormond Beach and Larry Robinson of Daytona Beach. Mamane bought the building on Dec. 23 for $1.05 million, a little more than its taxable value, which generated $19,300 in property taxes last year, $5,000 of it to the city. The building’s value is expected to soar with the revamp. The seven vacation rental units will generate additional tourism tax revenue for the county. Ironically, just last year the county’s tourism bureau had pitched a plan to acquire the building for itself, but that proposal never made it to the County Commission–which would have had to approve it–after Commissioner Dave Sullivan, who serves on the tourism board, found it unappealing.
The city’s planning board unanimously granted site approval on April 6, with a few conditions about incorporating certain design and landscaping elements.
An earlier plan for a drive-thru doughnut shop using the old bank teller drive-thru window was abandoned after the planning board raised concerns about traffic safety. Instead, the drive-thru area will be converted to regular commercial or retail space. The drive-thru area will be eliminated altogether. The plan calls for 3,282 square feet of retail space and an additional 1,200 square feet of commercial space. The difference between the two isn’t clear.
This is going to be a great facelift for the downtown area,” Commission Chairman Eric Cooley said. “So it’s very welcome.” Commissioner Jane Mealy, who’d never liked the looks of the existing building, said “everyone” is excited about the coming changes.
The city commission asked for additional signage for drivers coming out of Ocean Club’s parking lot. Otherwise, the commission approved the project in a 5-0 vote last Thursday. The item drew no reactions from the public.