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Condo-hotel project a no go

The $180-million waterfront development is another casualty of the soft market.

By MIKE DONILA
Published May 1, 2007


In the latest sign of the sharp drop in demand for condominiums on Clearwater Beach, another major project has refunded deposits to buyers and is re-evaluating what it will now build along the popular shoreline.

Construction on the $180-million Indigo Beach Residences & Suites on the site of the former Adam's Mark Hotel had been delayed already because of slow sales, but late last year, builders thought they could break ground by this summer.

But Monday, officials with the British developer said the soft market had continued to thwart their efforts to find buyers for the condo-hotel project - a community with two West Indies-style buildings - so they wanted to reassess the overall project.

Mike Moser, president for Taylor Woodrow Southeast & Tower Division, declined to say how many deposits were returned, but said company officials should have a better idea about their new direction "in the next several months."

He stressed, however, that the developer would keep the 2.5-acres of waterfront property and eventually build there.

"We're looking at a new use, something more cost-effective and with better price points, " Moser said.

City officials said the delays could now open the doors for a hotel-only project, something Clearwater leaders say the beach desperately needs.

"My ultimate hope is that they go back to the drawing board and eventually come to the city with a 100 percent hotel project - that would thrill me, " Mayor Frank Hibbard said. "It's a wonderful site and we'd love to get some overnight accommodations there."

Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce executive director Sheila Cole agreed, adding that she'd also like to see some public parking built in the area.

"We can certainly say we're disappointed because they had an aggressive sales staff and a beautiful project that would have been an asset to the beach, " Cole said.

Several thousand hotel rooms have been gobbled up by big development during the past half decade, including 217 the beach lost when Adam's Mark was imploded.

Taylor Woodrow in 2005 purchased the former Adam's Mark Hotel site for $31.5-million, the second-highest known property sale on the beach. Months later, the waterfront hotel was demolished, setting the stage for Indigo's 112 luxury condominiums and 78 condominium hotel suites. Owners of condo-hotel units live in their property a short amount of time and agree to lease it to others, hotel-style, for the balance of the year.

Plans for the project along S Gulfview Boulevard called for two towers - one 100 feet tall, the other 150 feet - two pools and 277 parking spaces. Construction was slated to start last summer, with the units carrying a $1-million to $2.5-million price tag.

Development in the past couple of years has been a mixed bag along the beach as condo sales have slowed to a crawl and more than 800 units remain on the market. Still, some developers continue to move forward with their projects. In late March, JMC Communities broke ground on its fourth Clearwater Beach megadevelopment: Marquesas, a $200-million project that features two towers with 142 residences and six penthouses.

Other mammoth projects, though, have been delayed or changed in scope. Developers have long blamed the national downturn in the real estate market coupled with Florida's skyrocketing taxes and insurance rates.

"I think it's pretty common knowledge that the condo sales are at a standstill, but the condo-hotel projects never really got off to a good start, especially in this area, " said David Little, a real estate agent with ReMax 1st Class.

Fast Facts:

 

Taylor Woodrow

- A large international home builder, working in North America, the United Kingdom and Spain

- Publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange, with more than $5-billion in annual revenue

- Currently in talks to merge with UK home builder George Wimpey

- Has been doing business in Florida for more than 30 years

- Local projects include Ladero in Lutz, Sereno in Madeira Beach and Waterchase in northwest Hillsborough County

Compiled by Times researcher Cathy Wos