By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
Visitors can rent units not occupied by owners, who can reside only three months each year.
MADEIRA BEACH - A $50-million condo-hotel project could make the city more attractive to tourists, officials hope.
Since mid 2002, the city has lost more than 200 tourist rooms, including a 147-room Holiday Inn and several smaller motels, all replaced by condominiums.
But the Madeira Grande Resort & Marina could be a step in turning things around. The Mediterranean-style complex will be located just northeast of the Madeira Beach bridge at 601 American Legion Drive, and will add 88 tourist units to the city's inventory.
"This definitely will reverse this terrible trend," Commissioner John Wolbert said. "This is a start, but we need more."
As a condo-hotel, the units are selling for an average $499,000 to owners who will live there a maximum three months a year. Tourists will rent them during the balance of the year, said Evelyn Page, president of Beach and Bay Realty, which is handling the project's marketing.
Construction is expected to begin by April and will take about 16 months to complete, in time for the 2008 tourist season, Page said.
Paula Cohen, the city's director of community development, approved the project's 2.2-acre site plan Tuesday. Now developers are free to apply for necessary building permits.
"This is one of the largest properties to be developed in the city," Cohen said.
Three buildings, varying in height up to four stories or 44 feet, will stand on the site and include indoor parking. All units will face the water.
Each condo unit is about 1,000 square feet, including the balcony, and features a full kitchen with custom wood cabinets and granite counter tops, ceramic tiled floors, carpeting, a washer and dryer, one bedroom, two baths and a living room area. They will be fully furnished, including a sofa bed in the living room.
The complex will include three swimming pools and 50 boat docks that can accommodate 50-foot vessels. "It will be a boater's paradise," Page said.
"This is going to be a fabulous project," Page said. Almost half the units are already reserved, with one-third presold to buyers from Ireland, she said.
Frank Burkett of Deacon Development is the project developer; Santa Madeira Investment Partners is the owner. The project was designed by Collman & Karsky Architects of Tampa.
Last summer, Burkett was unsuccessful in his attempt to purchase the adjoining American Legion post property in a deal that would have given the Legion a new headquarters atop a multistory parking garage on the site.
His proposal drew sharp opposition from many Legion members and resulted in several contentious meetings and a vote that was rejected over questions about the validity of the voting process.
The post's aging building had numerous problems, including violations of city building codes. Repairs, including a new roof, were estimated to cost up to $2-million.
Cohen said this week there currently are no code violations against the Legion building.