JW Marriott Clearwater Beach project still on target despite some bumps


CLEARWATER BEACH — While Tampa is excited about its first JW Marriott hotel, plans are moving ahead for a $130 million JW Marriott property on Clearwater Beach, despite some hiccups.

"We’ve done really well in our opinion," Uday Lele, developer of the proposed JW Marriott Residences, said Monday. "We’ve got 14 (reservations), all we need is two more to go vertical."

A leading hotel consultant, though, says he thinks the Clearwater Beach project still has "several hurdles to overcome" before it gets out of the ground.

"A number of investors have contacted us for our opinion on the market and on the project and they being very cautious and still doing underwriting," said Lou Plasencia, CEO of Tampa’s The Plasencia Group.

Lele announced in April that Marriott International had given the go-ahead for his project, which would include a 166-room JW Marriott Hotel and 36 fully furnished residences that owners could occupy a month at a time and rent out under Marriott management.

JW Marriott is considered one of the world’s top luxury hotel brands. The residences would JW Marriott’s first in the United States.

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Lele said reservations initially were strong, but slowed for various reasons. Plans had to be redone to comply with new state fire protection codes and Marriott wanted the parking garage redesigned to present a "beautiful facade from the street," Lele said.

On Sept. 10, Hurricane Irma brushed the Tampa Bay area with strong winds, causing enough damage to the existing hotel on the site that it had to close for three weeks. The sales center for the JW Marriott Residences was in the hotel.

So far, prospective buyers have put down deposits on units ranging in price from $550,000 for a one-bedroom, one- bath unit to $1.325 million for three bedrooms and two baths, according to the Multiple Listing Service.

Located at 691 S Gulfview Boulevard, the site of the residences does not directly front the Gulf of Mexico and instead is closer to the bridge leading to Sand Key. The project is advertised as having a "private beach" although property appraiser records show that most of the beach is public.

"Unless you’re actually staying at the property you can’t get there except by swimming in," Lele said. He added, though, that he would change the description,.

Lele said he has financing for the project though he would not disclose the names of the lenders or investors. Once another two units are under contract, the existing hotel would be demolished and construction could begin late next spring, he said.

Last week, developers announced that JW Marriott will run a new 519-room hotel next to the existing Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina in Tampa. Construction on the 26-story hotel, part of the $3 billion Water Street Tampa mixed-use project, is expected to start early next year and be completed in time for Super Bowl LV to be held in Tampa in February 2021.

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Plasencia said he thinks the Tampa hotel — which he called a "done deal’’— would have little effect on the JW Marriott Residences, either as a competitor or as a marketing tie-in.

"The two are far enough apart from each other that if the Clearwater property were to be built, they would really not compete all that much with each other," he said. The downtown Tampa project is much more of a group hotel and corporate transient property whereas the Clearwater one is more leisure-oriented.

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate