MADEIRA BEACH — Developers hoping to bring a 120-unit Marriott Hotel to the city have a problem.
The land they own, the former Santa Madeira Restaurant property located west of Duhme Road and north of the Publix on the east end of the Madeira Beach Causeway, is not big enough.
A flagship hotel like the Marriott needs a minimum of 120 rooms to be economically viable, says Housh Ghovaee.
The Northside Engineering executive is working with the property owners and city officials to find a way to either increase the size of the site or increase the number of tourist units allowed on the existing site.
That site is now less than 2 acres and is eligible for only about 60 hotel rooms under current zoning codes.
About a year ago, the site was almost an acre larger, but the property owner, Santa Madeira Investment Partners LLC, sold off four lots on the north side to the nearby American Legion Post 273 for additional parking.
Steve Page, the managing partner of the ownership group, could not be reached for comment.
Ghovaee said Friday he has been in contact with Shaner, a Pennsylvania hotel developer and operator interested in investing in the Madeira Beach property.
"Everybody is so excited about the project," Ghovaee said. "Shaner likes the location. They think Madeira Beach is a great city and with the new mayor and council they are more hopeful they can bring in more tax dollars to the city."
He said he is "exploring any possible option to bring a Marriott to this location."
One of those options involves the city vacating part of American Legion Drive.
But that would require a voter referendum and would land-lock the American Legion facility and property.
It is also uncertain that adding the road right-of-way to the Santa Madeira land package would provide enough area to qualify for the needed hotel rooms.
Another alternative is for the city to change its codes to allow greater development density on the existing site.
That is just what Ghovaee is now hoping can happen.
"We would like to discuss the possibility of creating a new land use category," he wrote to the City Commission last week.
City officials previously considered adding a Resort Facility High land use to its comprehensive plan, but no action has yet been taken.
Adding the land use category would make the city consistent with both county and state rules, Ghovaee said.
He planned to present his idea at Tuesday's commission meeting, but requested instead that he appear at the next commission workshop, Aug. 3.
Santa Madeira Investment Partners purchased the property in 2005 for $5.3 million. It is currently valued at $1.9 million by the Pinellas Property Appraiser's Office.
After the purchase, the investment group proposed building a major hotel on the site.
The proposal called for a four-story, 100-unit Mediterranean-style condo-hotel on the site of the former Santa Madeira Restaurant west of Duhme Road and north of the Publix at the east end of the Madeira Beach Causeway.
When a land swap deal with the nearby American Legion Post 273 fell through, the project was redesigned, but then the economy soured and the property remained vacant.
In 2007, the County Commission approved installing a number of docks along the property's shoreline in the Intracoastal Waterway.
Last year, city officials approved a site plan for condos on the site but that project never went forward.
Now, the developers are again seeking to build a major hotel on the site.
"We are looking for any possible and easiest way to obtain 120 rooms," Ghovaee said.