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Schooner Hotel redevelopment in Madeira Beach clears first hurdle

Margie Manning

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A rendering of the planned Schooner Resort

The Madeira Beach Planning Commission unanimously approved rezoning needed for a planned redevelopment of the Schooner Hotel.

The Schooner, a 42-unit hotel at 14500 Gulf Blvd., has been described as one of the last remaining “old school Florida hotels in Madeira Beach.”

It would be redeveloped as the Schooner Resort, a seven-story building with a 56-room hotel, restaurant and resort services on the west side of Gulf Boulevard. A planned crosswalk on Gulf would allow guests to access parking on the east side of Gulf.

Kevin Bowden, a veteran hotel developer and one of the partners who operates the Schooner, said the project would cost between $25 million to $28 million.

The current hotel is a bit run down, he said during a March 25 Planning Commission meeting.

“It’s been a tough hotel to run the way Madeira Beach would like to see it and the way we would like to run it,” Bowden said. “When Covid rolled in, the hotel business took its toughest tumble since ’07 or ’08. It seems to be coming back. We feel we can get this financed and built and be a successful part of Madeira Beach.”

Bowden is partnering with real estate agents Jeff Beggins and Jim Beggins on the proposed redevelopment. They are operating the hotel under a three-year lease with the owner, Brian Selenski, and have an option to purchase the property, Bowden said.

Bowden also owns the newly opened Cambria Hotel on Madeira Beach and is building the Miramar Resort on St. Pete Beach.

It’s the second time plans have been offered for a redevelopment on the site. An initial proposal in 2018 called for two buildings — one on the west side of Gulf Boulevard and one on the east side, connected by a bridge. After feedback from neighbors, it was redesigned before Covid put the project on hold.

On Monday night, the Planning Commission gave final approval to the rezoning with several conditions, including approval by the Florida Department of Transportation for the crosswalk on Gulf, valet parking service, a limit of 160 patrons at any one time in the restaurant, and protection for turtles on the beach.

A rendering of the planned Schooner Resort

The project still needs approval from the Madeira Beach Board of Commissioners at meetings scheduled in April and May, Bowden said. If the project wins final approval in May, Bowden hopes to break ground later this year. Construction would take about 14 months with opening projected for February 2023, he said. If there is a delay in winning approval, the project likely would not break ground until later in 2022, so the development would not lose a full season of tourist business, he said.

The developers don’t currently have a hotel brand, or flag, lined up, but they are meeting with several flags.

“I’m not sure if we will have one. It will be a high-end boutique hotel and we can do it unflagged or flagged,” Bowden said.

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