MADEIRA BEACH – A major hotel planned for the center of John’s Pass Village has moved closer toward becoming a reality.
The City Commission at its Oct. 23 workshop decided to hold a second public meeting on the project, this one at City Hall, and to move the hotel project on to the city Planning Commission for its review.
Architect John Bodziak said the first neighborhood meeting at John’s Pass Village drew about 120 people and brought positive comments.
The village merchants were strongly in favor of the hotel, he said.
The hotel project had appeared to hit a major roadblock when first announced by Bodziak at a commission workshop in late August. A shared-use agreement on a city-owned alleyway that runs through the center of the hotel property, which Bodziak said was needed for the project to proceed, failed to have commission support.
Bodziak said the agreement would allow him to double the parking space in a planned parking garage to be built above the alleyway. The increase, from 148 spaces to nearly 300, would provide enough parking for hotel guests and about half would be available for public parking, said Bodziak.
“This will solve the parking problem at the Village,” he said.
Bodziak had proposed giving the city a percentage of the parking revenue, but agreed to consider a flat payment after commission members favored that option.
“It needs to be a flat rate,” said Commissioner Nancy Oakley.
Mayor Maggi Black said she also favored a flat payment over a revenue percentage.
“That’s so much easier for budgeting purposes,” said City Manager Jonathan Evans.
Commissioner Deby Weinstein said she was opposed to the joint agreement on the alleyway. “We should not enter into any agreement where we can’t control it,” she said.
Weinstein proposed the city get the parking spaces on the ground floor of the parking garage and “put in our own meters.”
Weinstein got little support from the rest of the commission.
“There’s a lot of expense with meters,” said Commissioner John Douthirt. “It’s costs, costs, costs versus a flat fee. This takes the accounting nightmare out of it.”
Bodziak also redesigned the look of the parking garage, in response to public comment, adding awnings and hanging gardens to “make it more like a street scene.”
Bodziak said his proposed hotel project for John’s Pass Village offers a lot of benefit for the city. It provides new resort hotel for the city with a tourist water park on an upper level.
The additional parking will generate income and revenue for the city, and “solve the parking problem at John’s Pass with no cost to the residents.” Further, the alley width will be increased to 24 feet, and the utilities will be repaired.
“We agree to go forward with his (proposed hotel project),” said Black, after getting a consensus from the commission.
That means holding a second public meeting, and bringing the project to the city Planning Board.
Bodziak said he is ready to proceed, acknowledging more negotiations lie ahead. “There will be a lot of conversations back and forth,” he said.
Major City Hall renovation
The commission also agreed to move ahead with another major project: adding a first floor to City Hall. Currently, the City Hall offices are at second-floor level, with vacant space below.
The proposal came from the city Planning Department. Community Development Director Linda Portal said the additional space is needed, especially by the Planning Department.
Staff is recommending this, said Portal, noting that City Hall does not have enough meeting or office space. The additional space is seriously needed,” Portal said.
“There are meetings going on in all departments all the time. We hold them in the hallways and outside,” she said. “We have a lot more activity, and we don’t have the proper space to do the work.”
Also, Portal said, expanded space is needed for project files.
Adding the space “would let us get some of the functions that are out in the open into enclosed offices, and give us the security and confidentiality we need,” Portal said.
City Hall is high enough to accommodate another floor, said Portal, and it is built well above FEMA flood requirements. The floor would be built under the office section, and would be the width and length of that wing of City Hall.
There are columns in place that support the existing second floor. Portal said the new ground floor level would require only walls and a finished ceiling to hide existing utility apparatus that is underneath the second floor.
The money to pay for construction of the new floor will come from the city building fund, which is financed from project fees handled by the Building Department. It is expected to cost $350,000 to $375,000, Portal said.
There are several big proposed projects expected to generate more than enough money to cover that cost, she said.
Commissioner Nancy Hodges said she was uneasy about adding a floor underneath the City Hall.
“We’re still in a flood zone,” she said.
Portal said the section will be flood-proofed “so wave action doesn’t affect it.” She said special construction methods required by FEMA will not allow water in.
“It will be carefully constructed to keep water out,” Portal said. She mentioned the new CVS and other ground-level buildings that are built that way.
The commission agreed with City Manager Evans’ request to go forward with getting bids on the first floor addition to City Hall.
Restarting Madeira Way market
The popular Madeira Way market that was held weekly during the season will likely be revived in some form. Initial plans are for once a month, on a Sunday during November and December. The event was discontinued in April and moved to Seminole by its sponsor.
Since then, the merchants say they miss the business generated by the crowds that attended the market. They want it restarted, Evans said. With construction to start soon on the Madeira Town Centre project at 150th and Madeira Way, the merchants are concerned about the impact that will have on business.
“We would like to be able to help our local businesses, because we know construction is a major deterrent for (visitors),” Evans said.
Business owner Pam Wikberg said the businesses on Madeira Way want to succeed.
“We chose to be here, and we’re trying to make it work during the construction.”
The market will be a good assist, Wikberg said.
She said some creative approaches will be tried, like having a “pet posh” or antique car show, and mix up the vendors so they’re not the same every time.
“This is something that will help bring the community together,” Wikberg said. “We want it to be a quality event.”
She said, “Our goal is to keep it going, and maybe expand it.”
Commission members backed the restart of the market, on a trial basis, for now.
“We’ll try it during November and December, and then look at the cost to the city and the traffic created,” said Commissioner Douthirt.
Commissioner Hodges said, “I don’t see a problem. I’m all for supporting Madeira Way and the market.”
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Mayor Black.
Commissioner Oakley had concerns about the cost to the city of holding the market, but Evans said the developer of the City Centre project had agreed to help out financially with the market. He specifically mentioned funding an event coordinator and perhaps other expenses. The merchants will assist in setting up and taking down the market, reducing the city’s involvement, Evans said.