CLEARWATER — It's hard to miss the big construction crane that's building a new hotel right alongside the sand on Clearwater Beach.
If the activity at City Hall is any indication, more construction cranes will be heading to the beach to join that one.
The Clearwater City Council has approved plans for two more beach hotels. Those two join a flurry of other big-ticket hotel projects that were already planned for the beach's tourist district.
And more proposals are expected soon, because time is running out for developers to take advantage of a city incentive that's designed to lure mid-priced hotels to the beach.
"If you just drive down the beach, you can see it's busy," said hotelier Jeff Keierleber, whose company owns several Clearwater Beach hotels and is adding another. "I have always been a big believer that the more good competition there is on the beach, the better it is for everybody, and that's what's happening."
Here are the projects that the City Council recently approved:
Clearwater Beach Guesthouse: This 10-story, 155-room hotel tower will be built on what is now a parking lot for the Holiday Inn at 521 S Gulfview Blvd. on the south end of the beach. A parking garage beneath the new hotel will handle parking for both hotels, said Keierleber, who will own both of them.
The new hotel will have a West Indies look, with dark wood floors, white baseboards and white shutters. It will have a rooftop bar and will be quite similar to the nearby Pier House 60 Marina Hotel, which Keierleber also owns.
"We believe we're going to break ground in 60 days," he said.
Coronado Drive project: This is to be a 10-story, 144-room hotel at 353 Coronado Drive. The currently vacant site is bordered by Coronado and Hamden drives and Fifth Street. It's just east of the south beach McDonald's and Crabby Bill's.
The hotel is to be built by St. Petersburg developer Tony Fernandez and his company, Mainstream Partners. Fernandez is traveling and couldn't be reached by the Times.
For five years, Fernandez has had plans to build a hotel at 325 S Gulfview Blvd., home of the existing Beachview Inn. Current plans call for 180 rooms to go there. He also has plans that haven't been approved yet for a 166-room hotel at 405 Coronado.
The only Clearwater Beach hotel that's under construction is the Opal Sands Resort, a 15-story, 230-room hotel that international developer Ocean Properties is building on the site of the old Adam's Mark resort on S Gulfview. It is to open in fall 2015.
Various other beach hotels have been approved by city officials, but construction hasn't begun. Some may never get built.
• A 171-room Hampton Inn & Suites is planned for the beach's south end.
• The Views, a 14-story, 202-room hotel by developer Uday Lele, would replace the less-grand Wyndham Garden hotel.
• A taller, revamped Sea Captain Resort, with nine floors and 85 rooms, is to rise near the Beach Marina.
• Ocean Properties and prominent Tampa Bay builder Mike Cheezem plan to build a condo and hotel project called Marquesas on a long-vacant patch just before S Gulfview turns toward the Sand Key Bridge.
Time is running out for developers to take advantage of a city incentive designed to lure mid-priced hotels to the beach. To make a mid-priced hotel financially viable on expensive beach real estate, developers need as many rooms as they can get.
Clearwater allows beach hotel developers who meet certain conditions to draw units from a pool of extra rooms, building more rooms than they otherwise would be allowed per acre.
Beach By Design, a 2001 master plan for beach redevelopment, was amended in 2008 to create a hotel-density reserve of 1,385 units in hopes of attracting mid-price hotels such as Marriott Courtyard or Hampton Inn.
At this point, 238 units are left in the reserve, according to city planner Mark Parry.
"We expect a little bit of a flurry at the end, with people trying to get their allocation of that pool," said Michael Delk, Clearwater's planning director. "Because once it's gone, it's gone."
Contact Mike Brassfield at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow @MikeBrassfield.