Over a hundred St. Pete Beach residents filled the City Hall chamber Nov. 13, delivering testimony against a massive redevelopment along the shoreline that will bring two new hotels to the already congested Gulf Boulevard corridor.
Since acquiring the 13-acre Sirata Beach Resort property in a record-breaking $207 million deal last year from Crescent Real Estate, Kentucky-based hotel management company Columbia Sussex has been drafting plans for redeveloping the pool and restaurant of the existing hotel at 5390 Gulf Blvd., which opened in the 1960s.
In partnering with engineering group Kimley-Horn, the team presented new plans to the St. Pete Beach Planning Board, showing the addition of a 290-key JW Marriott on the northside of the resort and a 130-key Hampton Inn select-service hotel at the south end.
The developer also plans to demolish a six-story building adjacent to the Sirata, and therefore remove a total of 156 units.
Both new hotels would have rooftop amenities. The applicant is seeking a beverage permit for the 10-story JW Marriot; however, an attorney with Sterns Weaver and Miller Tampa firm insisted that the pool and amenity deck on the fourth floor would not be a “rooftop bar.”
She explained the owners are seeking a conditional use permit to serve alcohol solely for hosting events such as weddings and conventions.
Regarding a buildup of traffic on the densely packed narrow roadway, the development team said the development would eliminate offsite queuing, and the first three levels of the JW Marriott would be a parking garage. A second garage would be located behind the Hampton Inn.
Prior to the meeting, city staff received nearly 300 emails concerning impacts the stormwater system and roadway, potentially causing more pedestrian-related safety issues with a wave of tourists not utilizing the crosswalks properly.
“Residents don’t want to see an increase of density,” one opponent said during the public speaking portion of the meeting. “We understand the property is losing its value and we want redevelopment, but not at the cost of our character.”
The group noted there would be beach access points from the hotel property. Kimley-Horn would also import 10,840 square feet of sand to create larger dunes on the shore for storm protection.
The majority of the planning board members said the request to renovate the resort, and the addition of new hotels, aligns with the city’s comprehensive plan.
With the approval of the board, the amended comprehensive plan will go before the St. Pete Beach City Council Dec. 5 for final approval.
If the council rejects the plans for the two new hotels, the renovation of the Sirata Beach Resort could still move forward, according to the city’s planning department.