Construction workers tear down the old part of Shephard’s Beach Resort on Feb. 2 to make room for an expansion project.
CLEARWATER – The machines have moved in and the reformation of Shephard’s Beach Resort on Clearwater Beach has begun. When it is finished, the facility will be transformed, growing over twice its current size.
Gerri Shephard, director of operations at the resort, says it was time for an upgrade.
“The older section was getting to the point where it was too costly to remodel,” she said. “We just needed to make a move and upgrade, and it is time to expand. We’ve been developing plans for many years and we just had to find a comfort zone regarding the economy.”
The expansion is quite an undertaking. They are building 93 new hotel rooms, a new parking garage, a new tequila bar and tap room, a new 7,000 square foot pool and deck with VIP accommodations.
“We’re going up six stories with two levels of parking,” she said. “What is coming down now is the original Lagoon Motel; it is the same two-story structure that was the original.
Shephard’s father, Bill, purchased the old Lagoon Motel back in 1977. He is still active in the business along with Gerri and brother Billy.
Already completed this summer, as part of the expansion, was an 11,000 square foot Tiki Bar. That also includes a concert stage.
During the 11-month construction period Shephard says they will continue to operate with 47 hotel rooms. The restaurants and clubs will remain open.
“We’re trying to minimize inconvenience,” she said. “We have extra valets on duty during construction to get people in as quickly as possible. As for noise during the demolition, well that is separated from the hotel site so it won’t be too bad for guests.”
The family has had experience with expansion. Back in 2001, the resort added more hotel rooms and a parking garage. It was then the name changed from the Lagoon to Shephard’s Beach Resort.
“When we did our first big addition in 2001, our business stayed really well,” she said. “We’re hoping it will stay the same this time.”
Just as hopeful is Darlene Kole, president of the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce. She says the business community is excited with the Shephard’s expansion.
“It is just another indication of the growth and expansion that our beach is going through,” she said. “We do have a lot of hotel and motel rooms on our beach, but we can always use more. Now that we have been named Florida’s number one beach town by USA Today, there is all the more reason to have places to stay when they get here.”
Kole said Clearwater Beach broke records in 2012 on the amount of visitors who came to the beach and the tax dollars that were generated.
“We had an increase of 12 percent over the previous year,” she said. “There was more bed tax than ever before and the number 1 designation is expected to get people’s attention.”
Kole said that is all one indication that the economy is on an upswing, and Shephard’s is another indication of that.
“Shephard’s commitment to expand and improve their resort is another indication of the confidence and commitment that many developers have out here on the beach,” she said.
Kole added that there is more to come.
“There is a Hampton Inn coming, Walgreens is building a brand new store on the north end, there is another 220-room hotel going to break ground this year, we’re on fire and we’re very grateful,” she said.
For now though, Shephard’s is first off the mark. Shephard said their own records as well as the overall economy spurred them on for this year.
“We feel things are starting to come back a little bit,” she said. “With the new things that are coming to the beach, more people will be coming here and that will be good for all of us. The last three or four years have been good for us and this last year was the best ever. We always look for growth every year, it is hard but we can’t complain. When this is finished we’ll need more staff, especially in the hotel end.”
Shephard said during construction, nearby hotels are helping out.
“The Holiday Inn next door is letting our guests use their pool. We helped them out when they had construction going on, so it is kind of reciprocal,” she said.
Shephard says the expansion should be finished by Christmas 2013 and when it is, guests will be in for something special.
“We’re expanding the pool to three times its present size,” she said. “That will allow us to bring in Miami-type pool parties that no one here has seen before.”