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Developer says resort would begin beach's transformation

If approved next week, the Hyatt condo-hotel would bring about a rebirth of Clearwater's "diamond in the rough," Brian Taub says.

By AARON SHAROCKMAN
Published November 12, 2004


CLEARWATER - A 250-room Hyatt could be the first of three planned Clearwater Beach resorts to win city approval if City Council members follow the city staff's recommendation next week.

The Hyatt would start a beach renaissance, said developer Brian Taub of Taub Properties. In addition to council approval, the project must win the planning board's permission to amend a previously approved site plan.

Workers have already started to remove asbestos from the Glass House and Beach Place motels near South Gulfview Boulevard. Taub said the properties could be demolished next month.

"Clearwater Beach is going to be a whole lot different," said Taub, 48, who plans to open the Hyatt Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa in 2007. "Clearwater is a diamond in the rough. It's being underutilized. Hopefully, we'll start to change that."

If approved, the Hyatt will be the first major Clearwater Beach resort development scheduled to be built in more than a decade.

But two other projects are following close behind.

Tampa philanthropist Kiran C. Patel wants to build a 350-room hotel just to the north of Taub's Hyatt. Patel paid $40-million for hotelier Tony Markopoulos' vision to remake several aging beach hotels, including the Days Inn.

And an investment group including JMC Communities, the company that built the Mandalay Beach Club condominiums on Clearwater Beach, has a $140-million plan to replace the landmark Clearwater Beach Hotel with a four-star, 251-room resort.

The 14-story Hyatt would include 400 public parking spaces for beachgoers along with a pedestrian bridge over South Gulfview.

Rooms would rent from about $189 a night, said Taub, and the hotel would include a spa and health center along with a beach club.

Hyatt has agreed to manage the resort, but the rooms would be individually owned as part of a creative financing partnership.

Individual rooms, ranging from 500 to 1,200 square feet, will be sold for between $350,000 and $650,000.

Owners will have access to their room for about a month each year. The rest of the time it would be rented out, with owners sharing the profits.

Taub said he expects to begin selling rooms in April, and he hopes to have 50 percent sold when he breaks ground next summer.

The partnership, called a condominium-hotel, will absorb some of the costs of the $90-million project. Taub purchased the company that owned the 1.63-acre site last month, but did not reveal the sales price.

His company recorded a $16.3-million mortgage on the property Oct. 15, according to records on file with the Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court.

Hyatt has also committed a "couple million dollars" to the resort, said Taub, which will be Hyatt's first domestic condo-hotel project. The concept has been popular in South Florida among other high-end resort chains.

"It's a tremendous situation that presents all of us," Taub said. "For the city to take on this opportunity is pretty brave. It changes the image and outcome of Clearwater Beach. I give the city the highest praise."

Before construction can begin, the Community Development Board must approve an amended site plan at its meeting Tuesday.

The City Council would then have to okay a development agreement on Thursday.

City staffers have recommended approval for both applications.

And council members have already pledged millions of dollars to overhaul the road in front of the proposed Hyatt resort.

The $15-million Beach Walk project would transform part of Gulfview Boulevard into a winding promenade lined with massive sidewalks, opulent landscaping and, city planners hope, upscale shops.

Gulfview would be relocated to the west, and Taub's resort would include what is now Gulfview itself.

"It's going to be the biggest request for patience we've ever asked for from our citizenry," said Assistant City Manager Gary Brumback. "A 42-month disruption of south beach."

As part of the proposed development agreement, work in front of the Hyatt would begin sooner to time with resort construction. Taub will contribute $1.47-million toward the Beach Walk project.

Taub has also given up sole concession rights to the beach in front of the resort.

Instead, the city will control beach concessions, which include beach chairs and umbrellas.

The resort will include a beach store that will sell sundries to both hotel guests and public beachgoers.

"These deals are difficult to pull off," said City Manager Bill Horne. "But if the development team comes together with all of the tools to get it done, it can get done.

"It appears it is."

Aaron Sharockman can be reached at 727 445-4160 or asharockman@sptimes.com

[Last modified November 12, 2004, 00:30:26]


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