|By Josh Boatwright, Tampa Tribune,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
March 10, 2013--MADEIRA BEACH -- A Courtyard Marriott hotel to be built on the Intracoastal Waterway is a prominent sign of Madeira Beach's recent embrace of development.
The 90-room hotel is expected to break ground this spring on a vacant lot that was home to the popular Santa Madeira seafood restaurant and will be one of the few area hotels to offer boat slips for water access to nearby Johns Pass.
The hotel is being built close to the Tom Stuart Causeway, near a recently opened Walgreens drugstore and Chase Bank branch. Across the bridge, developers also have plans for a new beachfront restaurant on Gulf Boulevard that could open by the end of the year and a 12-unit condominium that would replace an aging hotel.
"The City Commission has made it very apparent that we're here to cooperate and work with developers instead of throwing up a lot of red tape or hoops for them to jump through," City Manager Shane Crawford said.
"We've been selective, but at the same time, when we get quality developers in here who want to do something special, we're here to help them."
In part, the change follows a move last year shifting Madeira Beach's development office back under the city's control. The development office had been run by the county and, most recently, the neighboring city of Treasure Island.
City commissioners also updated zoning rules in the fall and eased height restrictions by a few feet for the Marriott hotel.
The city commission is negotiating with builders by making concessions to certain regulations in exchange for additional landscaping, creative parking and other benefits, said Vice Mayor Robin Vander Velde.
"We'll grant them some exceptions of the rules if they'll grant us some exceptions to landscaping and making the property look as good as possible," she said.
The Courtyard Marriott will be four stories over a parking deck with a mix of standard rooms and suites. It also will feature a pool and a restaurant and bar.
Developer and property owner Steve Page partnered with the Pennsylvania-based firm Shaner to build the hotel, which will be the only national chain hotel in Madeira Beach.
The hotel should open by summer 2014, Page said. It will be the first hotel built in Madeira Beach in several years.
New development and parking, in particular, is a challenge in Madeira Beach, which is about 95 percent built-out, Vander Velde said.
The spate of development may be driven in part by a half-percent rise in property values last year and the anticipation that land prices are going up, she said.
Developer David Bekhor said he had considered building a condo on the only vacant parcel left on the Gulf side of Gulf Boulevard, near 141st Avenue.
Now he plans to break ground next month on a 280-seat restaurant that will specialize in Gulf seafood and offer some of the only beachfront dining available south of Clearwater. He expects it to open by November.
Madeira Beach is well-positioned for even more redevelopment, Mayor Travis Palladeno said.
"Just looking at Madeira Beach, you kind of get that feeling that things were getting ready to change. Things were going to open up a little bit," Palladeno said.
It's "the prime place for redevelopment because the cost of land is cheap here, our taxes are low."
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