|By Morris Fraser, Northwest Florida Daily News, Fort Walton Beach|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Sep. 29, 2004--A decision on the fate of the Radisson Beach Resort is expected late this week, as owner French Quarter of Atlanta examines new options.
Radisson manager Mark Leffman said Saturday that while Hurricane Ivan was an ill wind physically, it blew in positive options.
"We have had to sit down and look at the big picture," he said.
"(Before the hurricane) We had thought about closing part of it off (for normal renovation) and operating the remainder until Marriott took over, or shutting down entirely. That didn't seem to make financial sense.
"With Ivan, we are looking at other possibilities."
The Radisson was reported in May to have been purchased by the Marriott International chain and that the new ownership would arrive in early 2005. Leffman said Saturday a Courtyard Inn was the Marriott presence proposed for the 299-room property.
Marriott spokesmen have not confirmed any contract for the Okaloosa Island resort.
Leffman couldn't put a firm value on the property, but said, "Maybe ballpark, $60 million- $70 million. It is on the beach, after all."
He said French Quarter also is considering moving into a potential real estate deal and creating condominiums on the 10-acre site.
At present, Leffman said employees are cleaning out rooms and grounds damaged by Ivan.
"We have all of our employees working," he said, noting he has about 150 on staff.
He said the Atlanta company also owns the Hampton Inn next door on Santa Rosa Boulevard and most workers will be able to continue there. The Hampton also is damaged, but he said, "I think we can get it back by mid-October."
About one-third of the Radisson workers face a layoff, he said. "We may have temporary layoffs in food and beverage. Hampton doesn't have food."
Leffman said about 50 employees work in food and beverage at the Radisson.
At present, though, employees are being kept busy and in fact are enjoying some perks at the resort, which features a tropical-style pool and cave bar within the complex.
"We have cleaned out the area and have set up deck chairs so people can rest a bit," he said. "The water isn't blue, but it's very serene."
The property has been the focus of some changes over the years. It had been a Holiday Inn before Radisson took control in 1998, and both properties had gone through ownership changes. The hotel suffered severe damage from Hurricane Opal in 1995 and underwent considerable renovation.
At one time it had 385 rooms and an estimated 200 employees.
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