Groundbreaking at the 100-room Margaritaville Hotel planned for the center of Flagler Beach is expected in April, and the hotel should open to iuts first guests in the fall of 2024, the city’s planning director, Larry Torino, said.
The 65,000 square-foot building will be built in place of the long-vacant farmers’ market grounds along Moody Boulevard (State Road 100), between South central and South Daytona Avenues. It’s the same block where the Flagler Beach Hotel and ballroom used to stand from 1925 to 1972, when it was demolished.
Torino projected the latest timeline on the long-anticipated hotel in the late-night hours of a very lengthy, at times tortuous meeting of the Flagler Beach City Commission last Thursday. “A lot of doom doom and gloom tonight,” he said. “So maybe some of what I have to say will add to that gloom for those people that are opposed to the hotel, but for those that are in favor of the hotel, I’m happy to [say] that project is definitely moving forward.”
Earlier this month the city administration met with the owner, the architectural team and the engineer, with ongoing discussions since.
The architects will submit plans for the hotel at the end of this week to Maitland-based Welbro Building Corp, the general contractor constructing the project. The owner, Manoj Bhoola, manager of Ormond Beach-based Elite Hospitality, must the take the plans to Margaritaville, the franchise owner, to get its blessings on the plans. That process should be completed by the end of January. The owner hopes to apply for a building permit “sometime in February, perhaps early March,” Torino said. That will take about two months.
The exterior of the hotel has not changed since its design was submitted to the city. Any changes will affect interior public spaces or the kitchen.
“It appears at this time that the plan reviews will be outsourced to a third party,” Torino said. “I’m not aware of who or what that company or who those individuals may be at this point in time. But we’re allocating roughly two months. So to you actually begin groundbreaking on the site, we’re looking at sometime in April, so very late March or the month of April.” The anticipated opening would be in September or October 2024, assuming more hurricanes, pandemics or depressions don’t interfere.
While they welcome the project, city commissioners are concerned about the impacts of construction on downtown businesses. “We want to make sure that those businesses will be able to continue to operate within reason anyway, while they’re still under construction,” Ken Bryan, who chairs the commission, said. Torino sought to reassure him. Welbro Building has put up buildings in many tight spaces, he said.
“Obviously there’s a lot of concerns about the crane, crane locations, talking about maybe having to get air rights,” Torino said. “There’s some pretty technical portions of this project that are going to be very tedious.” Bhoola has agreed to meet with the business owners on the surrounding perimeter area and to keep them fully appraised and actually present the plans to them, Torino said. “They have a main logistical plan already prepared, but they know they have to tweak it as we get closer to the project. They are also going to have to meet with respective contractors for the pier and any other work really that’s going on that’s proximate to this area.”
The hotel is not the only major construction project ahead. The city is also overseeing the demolition of the old pier and the construction of a concrete pier. The time frame for the two projects will overlap. The city is also the location of a 2.6-mile dune rebuilding project set to start almost at the same time as hotel construction, though the sand for that reconstruction will be dredged in from a borrow pit offshore. Still, the Department of Transportation continues to re-0strengthen State Road A1A because of recent storms, and may have to do so again because of routine erosion, all as downtown Flagler Beach is turned into the biggest construction zone it’s known in its history.
That’s why “site-logistics” meetings will take place on a regular basis once the building plans are submitted to the building department. Every department in city government, from public works to finance, will be involved in the meetings to ensure that the project flows smoothly, that “everything that is required of the developer is obtained, and they have it in place for the permit when it is issued. And secondly, we want to make certain that the city receives the pass-through fees and the other development fees that are associated with the project as well. So everything looks good.”
Referring to the three simultaneous projects, William Whitson, the city manager, said “we plan as a team to come together, do the coordination work with all the impacted contractors and the people doing the work, both this project, the hotel and then beach renourishment, and then have a communication system so that we can flow that information out to those that are on the periphery of this area, which is going to be impacted and changed quite significantly.”
Torino said Margaritaville is looking at the Flagler Beach hotel as its flagship, at least in its “boutique” category. The company has numerous Margaritaville hotels–in Orlando, Las Vegas, Nashville, New York City, Atlanta, Palm Springs, and in several other states, in Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Costa Rica and other countries.
During last August’s League of Cities annual meeting in Hollywood, Fla., CPH Engineering, the company designing Flagler Beach’s new sewer plant, hosted and paid for a dinner that Flagler Beach officials attended–at Hollywood’s Margaritaville Beach Resort. “It was very beautiful. If ours looks anything like that, we are a very lucky city,” Mayor Suzy Johnston said.