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Plaza Beach variance, density approved
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The Plaza Beach Resort, located at 4506 Gulf Blvd. in St. Pete Beach, received approval July 8 on two key components for redevelopment.
ST. PETE BEACH – City commissioners voted unanimously July 8 to grant a variance to the Plaza Beach Resort, 4506 Gulf Blvd., which begins the process for the 63-year-old facility to be redeveloped as a condo hotel.

After a discussion that lasted more than 90 minutes, St. Pete Beach commissioners agreed to a request by Plaza Beach General Manager Robert Czyszczon to allow the permitted 750 square feet per temporary lodging unit to be expanded to 900 square feet.

The decision, coupled with approval on an ordinance allowing an additional 19 temporary lodging units, sets the stage for Czyszczon to break ground on the project in middle 2015. Plans call for a 7-story hotel with a bowling alley on the fourth floor.

“I’m very excited to bring an exciting new project to St. Pete Beach,” Czyszczon said. “I want to build a sheik, sexy kind of motel that will kind of put us on the map here. But I’m having trouble doing that with the current (allowable) room size.”

Czyszczon said he would like to pre-sell a few of the units to provide working capital and would manage the remaining 1- and 2-bedroom units.

“I’m looking to sell some of the units,” he said. “I’m not going to sell out all of the units – just enough so I can sleep well at night. But I’m going to manage the majority of the rooms.”

Owners will be allowed to use individually owned units for up to 30 days per year, Czyszczon said. The remainder of the year, the units will be part of the rental pool.

Czyszczon said an upgraded structure was important for his hotel’s economic viability.

“A lot has changed over the years,” he said. “The new trend is 2-bedroom, 2-bath. That’s where everything is going – more space and more comfort. What I’m proposing is nothing crazy or out of the ordinary.”

Czyszczon said the best examples of what he has in mind are two properties directly to the north in Treasure Island. The Sunset Vista, built in 2006, is an all 2-bedroom, 2-bath hotel and some 3-bedroom units, as is the Marriott next door. Crystal Palms, another new condo hotel a couple of blocks away, offers both 1- and 2-bedroom accommodations.

“It (Sunset Vista) is one of the best performing properties in Pinellas County,” Czyszczon said. “Occupancy is 90 percent, which is unheard of. They stay booked.

“Times are changing and this is what people are looking for,” he added. “They want two bathrooms, bigger bathrooms and bigger showers.”

Mayor Maria Lowe wondered if construction would take place up to the coastal construction line.

“The footprint looks like you’re expanding to the max coastal construction line,” she said. “For some existing hotels it had an impact on their total density application because they went from the marine high tide lines to the coastal construction line. Therefore it reduced the number of units they could rebuild following a catastrophic event. Are you in that category?”

“I am in that category,” said Czyszczon. “Now we are dictated by the coastal construction line. The second floor is the only one that will go up to that area. We’re not asking any variances on the setbacks. We’re building this to the design the comprehensive plan is asking us to do. So we’re just asking for a variance for larger room sizes, but it will still conform.”

Robin Sollie, chief executive officer of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce, backed the variance request and the redevelopment of the hotel.

“We’ve heard positive things about this project at the chamber from the business community,” said Sollie. “The visitors that are coming to our destination are definitely seeking the two-bedroom experience, the bigger experience. Those types of visitors seeking those types of rooms stay longer and they spend more money. And as Robert said, they not only eat at our wonderful restaurants but they also shop at Publix, they’re paying sales tax and they’re having a good experience. These are all good points to keep in mind, not just for this project, but as we move forward with all of our (St. Pete Beach) redevelopment.”

The city commission agreed.

“This is going to be an amazing addition to St. Pete Beach,” said Melinda Pletcher.

“I think there was enough evidence presented in terms of what people are looking for in a room,” said Commissioner Terri Finnerty. “This increase tonight is very nice. It’s great.”

The hotel is located in the city’s boutique hotel resort district, which under terms of the current comprehensive allows for 50 temporary lodging units per acre.

The Plaza Beach currently has 39 suites.
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