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Florida Developer Mark Schmidt Planning $60 million Luxury Hotel
 On the Grounds of Woodmont Country Club in Tamrac, Florida

By Lisa J. Huriash, South Florida Sun-SentinelMcClatchy-Tribune Business News

July 14, 2006 --TAMARAC -- A developer plans to build a 349-room luxury hotel with condos alongside, with the goal of transforming the city from a place tourists drive through into a destination resort.

Mark Schmidt, owner of the private Woodmont Country Club, said within weeks he would submit a plan to City Hall to demolish the aging clubhouse and construct a seven- or eight-story hotel.

"You have to tear something down to build something up," he said.

Schmidt, a Plantation-based developer who broke ground this year on the $100 million Downtown Davie project, envisions a $60 million complex that pampers guests with high-end restaurants, a spa, beauty salon and a new swimming pool overlooking Woodmont's twin golf courses and tennis courts. He said he is talking with eight hotel chains to seal the deal for the four-star hotel.

Guests will have a private shuttle to take them to the ocean and will pay "a lot extra" to play golf at the private course, he said.

"Where do you go now -- east? You need something out west. West Broward is a fantastic place to live and we have nothing out here."

Schmidt also plans to construct 10 or 12 condo buildings that will be two or three stories each. He submitted a land use amendment to City Hall last week for that portion of the plan. Some of the 492 condos will be within walking distance of the hotel, while others will be clustered across Woodmont's 418 acres. He said the condos would attract people wanting second homes. Those people would use the resort's amenities "and fill up the hotel and country club during the summer months."

The new hotel could open as soon as September 2008, Schmidt said.

Currently, Tamarac has only three small motels, all along Commercial Boulevard. Schmidt said he considers his closest competition to be the three-star Coral Springs Marriott Hotel Golf Club & Convention Center.

"We'll be four-star. It will put West Broward and Tamarac on the map. Think about it, when you think of West Broward, do you think of a hotel? No," he said.

Andrew Berns, the city's economic development officer, said Tamarac has been trying for some time to lure a hotel, especially to its last parcel of empty land -- 8 privately owned acres in Commerce Park, at Commercial Boulevard and the Sawgrass Expressway.

"We were hoping to have someone come in with a hotel with higher-end restaurants," said City Commissioner Harry Dressler, who lives in Woodmont. "What they said is they want a four- or five-star resort spa [to come] to Woodmont. That would be consistent with the city's vision to re-brand the city in more of an upscale way."

There could be some opposition, though.

Burton Schneider, president of the Woodmont Property Owners Association, which is made up of 33 associations in Woodmont, expects someone will object to increased traffic and density. But "until we know [the details], we won't know how we feel," he said.

In 2004, the equity members who owned Woodmont sold the country club to Schmidt, the majority owner with Michael Jarmon as a partner. In one year, the pair said they invested about $1 million in upgrading the facility.

Schmidt, also an executive board member and treasurer of the United Jewish Communities of Broward County and former president of the Soref Jewish Community Center, said the decision to build a resort is partly financial. The country club is suffering declining membership. There are about 500 golf members, 250 tennis members and 120 social members.

"Of course, in today's world, you need more," he said.

And it's partly practical.

"The building is 25 to 30 years old," he said. "Hurricanes have given it a beating. Something needs to be done here. West Broward is a growing community but yet it doesn't have a real new hotel."

Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at lhuriash@sun-sentinel.com or 954-572-2008.

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Copyright (c) 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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