MADEIRA BEACH — On the heels of last week's groundbreaking for a 90-room, $14 million Courtyard by Marriott hotel, negotiations are nearing completion for a $20 million development that could include two additional major hotels, one or two destination restaurants, and a water park and water taxi service.
City commissioners are so eager to see the deteriorating and boarded-up Leverock's restaurant on the Madeira Beach Causeway redeveloped that they agreed last week to forgive more than $9,000 in sewer fees, late fees and interest dating back to when Leverock's was still operating.
But first, property owner Jim Holton must present the city with a contract showing that development of the nearly 5-acre property at 565 150th Ave. is a certainty.
Meanwhile, a number of other multimillion-dollar projects are either in the planning stages, under way or completed. They include:
• The nearly $1 million refurbishing of the city-owned Archibald Park.
• The $9 million redevelopment of the City Hall complex.
• The $4 million Secrets of the Sea Marine Exploration Center and Aquarium at John's Pass Village.
• The $2 million Gulf Grill, a fine-dining restaurant directly on the Gulf of Mexico, as well as a new Walgreens and Chase Bank.
"There are definitely a lot of exciting projects happening in our city," Mayor Travis Palladeno said.
The commission has almost finished refurbishing city-owned seawalls and expects to spend millions more to redo its aging stormwater system and to repave many deteriorating streets.
"Why is this happening in Madeira Beach? It's the geographic location on the Gulf of Mexico combined with a strong business nucleus," says engineer Housh Ghovaee, citing the city's wide white sand beach, a strong business community and a pro-development City Commission as major incentives for new development.
Ghovaee is closely involved with the Marriott project and in the potential development of the Leverock's site.
Leverock's, part of a popular seafood restaurant chain, closed about five years ago during bankruptcy proceedings.
Ghovaee says the potential development group includes his Clearwater-based Northside Engineering; property owner Holton; Bob Lyons, developer of area condominiums and several hotels in Clearwater Beach; and Pat Sheppard, a builder of luxury townhomes and condominiums in Clearwater Beach and Dunedin.
Ghovaee said he is negotiating with several "high-end flag hotels" interested in the Leverock's site.
"The market is definitely getting better," he said, predicting that development site plans will be submitted to the City Commission within two months.
Existing docks will be expanded along the approximately 1,000 feet of waterfront, and may include a water taxi service that would operate up and down the beaches.
A fish house at the site is moving to another location in the city.
The shuttered buildings, which City Manager Shane Crawford described as an eyesore frequently used by homeless people, are slated to be demolished by the end of August.
"The mayor and I are convinced that he (Holton) is ready to move ahead with developing the property," Crawford said.