MADEIRA BEACH — With only two apparently pro-forma votes to go, it appears certain the character and appearance of this island city is about to change dramatically.
Required rezoning for two massive redevelopment projects valued at nearly $200 million were approved by the City Commission on Tuesday that will bring new hotels, hundreds of new condominium units, restaurants, retail stores and marinas to the city’s downtown core. The actual details of the developments — the Madeira Beach Town Center complex in the city’s downtown core and the Holiday Isles project at the southwestern foot of the Madeira Beach Causeway Bridge — will be itemized in development agreements scheduled for commission approval on June 14.
Only one commissioner, Elaine Poe, opposed the projects. Vice Mayor Pat Shontz recused herself from voting on the Town Center project because she is one of the affected property owners.
“There is no down side to this. It is a win-win for everybody,” said Derwin Smith, an adjacent business owner and a past president of the Florida Hotel Association. Jeff Brown, vice chairman of the city’s planning board, said the projects would bring “much needed development” to the city’s downtown core. He and more than two dozen other project supporters in the overflow audience wore bright green T-shirts emblazoned with large white letters: “Say Yes”.
There were others opposing the projects who argued the buildings will be too tall, that the new people living and visiting will clog local traffic. But unlike many previous meetings, these people appeared in the minority.
Tim Clemens, the architect for the 6.7-acre Town Center project, drew applause when he described it as creating “a really beautiful entry boulevard” to the city. The new Town Center planned by developer Bill Karns will encompass two 11-story hotels, two 8-story condominiums, retail and restaurant space and a marina. The buildings will fill the downtown triangle area bounded by Gulf Boulevard, 150th Avenue and Madeira Way, and extend up the north side of 150th Avenue to the city’s Causeway Park at the foot of the bridge. The project includes landscaped public gathering places, pedestrian and bicycle paths, and a covered pedestrian bridge extending over Gulf Boulevard connecting the downtown core to Archibald Park on the Gulf.
The other project, proposed by property owner James Holton, is at the 4.6-acre site of the former Leverock’s Restaurant. It, too, will encompass two hotels with 272 guest rooms, multiple condominium buildings, retail and restaurant space and a marina. The maximum building heights were reduced from the originally planned 117 feet to 90 feet in response to resident concerns.
Both project developers have agreed to press the Florida Department of Transportation to install a new traffic light to allow residents of nearby condominiums safe access to 150th Avenue. The DOT currently does not believe such a light is warranted.
Karns is pledging to pay for the cost of designing and installing the traffic light once approval is received.
Assuming the City Commission approves the final development agreements in June, further county and state approvals will be required before construction can actually begin. The projects are expected to be completed in phases with initial construction taking about 18 months to complete.