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Hotel and condo project is latest in red-hot rush in Clearwater Beach

CLEARWATER — An international hotel developer has teamed up with a prominent Tampa Bay builder to build a condo and hotel project called Marquesas on a long-vacant patch in Clearwater Beach.

Mike Cheezem, CEO of JMC Communities, and Ocean Properties of Delray Beach propose to build two 15-story towers, one with 208 hotel rooms, the other with 74 condo units.

The more than 4-acre site will also feature a 4,000-square-foot restaurant, which developers have described as being similar to the Tate Island Grill at the Sandpearl Resort, a Cheezem development.

The project, on Clearwater Pass just before S Gulfview Boulevard turns toward the Sand Key Bridge, is the latest to surface south of Pier 60.

Ocean Properties has already started construction of a 230-room, 15-story beachfront hotel on the site of the old Adam's Mark hotel on S Gulfview Boulevard. And Jeff Keierleber recently won approval for a new hotel tower on his Holiday Inn property in the 500 block of S Gulfview.

"The iron is hot," said Michael Delk, the city's planning director. "Clearwater Beach is really, really strong right now, but people are just trying to take advantage of the timing. The ones to get approved and built first have kind of a leg up."

The City Council will hold the first of two public hearings on the proposal during its meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 112 S Osceola Ave.

Ocean Properties and Cheezem didn't immediately return calls requesting comment.

At Monday's work session, the City Council discussed the project briefly, but appeared satisfied with city planner Mark Parry's analysis that the mixed-use development met the city's Beach By Design guidelines.

The hotel side of the project will be moderately priced, Parry said.

Mayor George Cretekos said after the meeting that he didn't anticipate any trouble gaining council approval.

"There's going to be a lot of open space. We're going to have some view corridors," said Cretekos, a strong advocate for open views of the Gulf of Mexico along Clearwater's increasingly built-out beach.

One of the first events that Cretekos attended as a new council member in 2007 was a ground-breaking ceremony for an earlier incarnation of Marquesas — a $200 million project with 142 condos and six penthouses.

A housing bust and severe recession scuttled those plans. Cretekos said he is happy that a substantial development is finally looking promising.

The lot has been vacant since the Holiday Inn Sunspree was demolished in 2006.

The proposed development agreement is for 10 years, but the developers have told city officials that they plan to start construction in about 18 months after finishing the hotel at the Adam's Mark site.

Last fall, Cheezem and Ocean Properties vice president Mark Walsh lobbied council members against a neighboring hotel project proposed by Uday Lele. Lele's planned 14-story tower, on the eastern edge of his property, would imperil their plans, they said.

The City Council approved Lele's plans. Delk said that approval probably led Cheezem and Ocean Properties to switch the residential tower from the western to the eastern edge of the Marquesas site. A parking garage could also be built near the property line with Lele, he said.

"People are really getting a sense of urgency about bringing product to market," Delk said. "In the next 12 to 18 months we could see two or three hotels under construction."

Charlie Frago can be reached at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4159. Follow @CharlieFrago on Twitter. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Hotel and condo project is latest in red-hot rush in Clearwater Beach 02/04/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 2:31pm]
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