|By Matt Algarin, Destin Log,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 05, 2011--With bulldozers and work crews scattered throughout the grounds, the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa will look like a shell of its former self after a $6.5 million renovation project is completed.
"There is a lot happening outside," said Leonard Martin, director of engineering for the Hilton Sandestin. "There is a lot happening and it needs to happen quickly -- we need to have this open for our spring guests."
While it was a tragedy at the time, an overnight fire that consumed Barefoot's Bar & Grill and a large portion of the pool deck in October became a blessing in disguise for the 598-room hotel.
Pairing the $5 million check from the damages to the restaurant, and an already planned $1.5 million renovation -- guests will be treated to a one-of-a-kind experience.
Gary Brielmayer, general manager of the Hilton Sandestin, told local media and community leaders during a hard hat tour Tuesday that the current renovation would be the luxury resort's fourth major renovation since he came aboard 13 years ago.
"This really is an exciting time for us at the Hilton Sandestin," he said during a brunch reception. "For the past 26 years we have distinguished ourselves with excellence in service and amenities . . . and it's with that unwavering commitment to quality we have invested $6.5 million -- ultimately it's going to enhance our guest experience."
For the Hilton team, the fire was an opportunity to shake things up and try something new. After clearing the rubble, Martin said they noticed a "beautiful vista," with the unobstructed view of the Gulf of Mexico and the sugar-white sand beaches. They decided they couldn't go back to what they had.
"That would have been the easy thing to do," Martin said. "It's something we could do quickest and get us back open, but we wanted to keep this look."
Another key feature will be the roughly 17,000-plus square foot of decking around the pool area and Barefoot's. Brielmayer said that the Hilton Sandestin is one of the few places in Florida, or in the United States where visitors could see the sunrise and the sunset over the water in one location.
Other renovations include: remodeling meeting areas, improvements to Picnix Poolside Market, relocating The Sand Bar and The Beach Hut and adding The Coffee Shop, which is currently open. More than $200,000 has been spent on Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved lighting for the pool decks, $400,000 for a new coat of paint on the hotel and $125,000 for landscaping.
As for the work itself, Martin said the key is to just keep moving forward. The plan is to have Picnix open on the pool deck by March 1 and Barefoot's sometime between then and April 1.
"We're going to work seven days a week, we're going to work 12 hours a day or more, and we are going to get it done so we can get back to being a full service operating hotel without construction -- we are committed to that goal."
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Copyright (c) 2011, Destin Log, Fla.
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