|By Doreen Hemlock, Sun Sentinel, Fort
Lauderdale, Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 13, 2012--The first big new beach resort in Pompano Beach in years is under construction, set to offer sorely needed meeting space to draw destination weddings, conferences and other groups to the city.
Two adjacent towers -- one renovated, one new -- are becoming a four-star Marriott resort with 219 rooms, a ballroom, pools, restaurants, a fitness center and more. Opening is expected in about a year, said Kevin Urgo, senior vice president for developer Urgo Hotels based in Bethesda, Md.
The venture comes at a time when many hotel projects in South Florida are stalled, struggling to find funding.
Yet Urgo Hotels can afford to invest $45 million to build the beachfront resort. They are well-funded, the family business bought the properties out of foreclosure in late 2010, paying cash and obtaining a discount "between 30 percent and 50 percent" from market prices, said Kevin Urgo.
The group also secured a construction loan based on its strong track record of building and operating hotels, including many Marriotts, said Kevin Urgo. It now has 31 hotels, with more than 4,000 rooms open.
"They have a substantial enough balance sheet that banks are willing to talk to them," while banks won't lend to developers with little money and little experience after the recession, said hotel analyst Scott Brush of Brush & Co. in Miami.
To develop the resort, Urgo Hotels bought three parcels on AIA just south of the 14th Street Causeway in Pompano Beach, all owned by the same group and sold through the bank foreclosure.
The developers are renovating the former Ocean Point Hotel to offer 100 rooms, lobby, concierge lounge and other facilities there. They will build a 119-room tower nearby on a lot that had an abandoned building that they razed. The towers will be connected with an area to feature two pools, a fitness center, plus 11,000 square feet of meeting space, with a rooftop terrace for gatherings, developers said.
Room rates have yet to be set, but Brush figures the resort can command $225 to $250 per night, at least within a couple of years -- a big step above average prices in the Pompano Beach area.
"They won't be able to get the same rates as four-star hotels on [more developed] Fort Lauderdale beach, but they'll be the best beachfront resort in northern Broward County," said Brush. "And maybe not right away, but within a couple of years, nicer stuff will develop around them," boosting rates.
The resort comes as Pompano Beach "is re-inventing itself to become a family-friendly tourist destination," laying the groundwork for "what we hope will be a string" of new hotels and ventures, said Elaine Fitzgerald, a local hotelier active on tourism with the city and the area's Chamber of Commerce.
City projects under way aimed to lure business include an 18-hole Greg Norman-signature municipal golf course, plus re-development of the beachfront and a face lift of Atlantic Boulevard near the beach.
The new resort adds major meeting space, "which should be a huge draw to the city," said Fitzgerald.
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