More information is needed, but the business owners, residents, and tourists interviewed about the hotel that might be built at the Shoppes of Wilton Manors said they are generally supportive of the project.
In a previous interview, the developer, Coconut Grove-based Grass River Property, said plans right now are to build a hotel with 120 to 125 rooms. The hope is to start construction in 2018. In general, the city manager’s office is also generally supportive of the project because getting a hotel built is one of the city’s economic goals.
“We would love to build a hotel. We’re considering a lot of different things,” said George Spillis of Grass River Property. “My partners and I desperately want to build a hotel on the property.”
Many business owners on Wilton Drive support the project.
“It’s just going to bring everyone more business. As long as it’s not too high, how can it be bad?” said Anthony Dumas, owner of To The Moon. “Nothing works back there. Something needs to be there,” he said, referring to the empty shops on the back half of the property. “It’s just going to bring in more tourists.”
Tim Slivinski, co-owner of Naked Grape, said a hotel should have been built years ago and that it would be an asset for the community, as long as it’s not “a huge monstrosity.” He added that he thinks a lot of groups, especially LGBT ones, would choose Wilton Manors as the place hold their conventions. “That’s a great thing. It’s a total boon to tourists who want to spend time in Wilton Manors.”
Ed Lugo, owner of Ed Lugo Resort, said he’s confident the hotel wouldn’t hurt his business. “It’s going to attract a different kind of person [who wants to stay in my kind of lodging and not a traditional hotel]. They want something special.” But Lugo, who opened his doors 10 years ago, doesn’t think developers will ever build one at the Shoppes of Wilton Manors because there isn’t enough demand.
“There are six of us [small resorts and bed and breakfasts in Wilton Manors] and we’re not 100 percent occupied. On weekends, yes, there’s enough demand. But not during the weekdays. I wish it could be Key West or Miami, but it’s not.”
Nick Berry, co-owner of Rumors Bar & Grill and Courtyard Café, said that the hotel would create more visitors who would spend their money here in the daytime. Encouraging daytime shopping on Wilton Drive is something the city has been trying to do for years. “We absolutely need it. They’re going to be spending their money here.”
Jennifer Santos, who lives in Brazil and has attended multiple Stonewall festivals, including the one held Saturday, said she would most likely stay in the hotel if it was built. “I love Wilton Manors. I come for the gay community.”
At a recent commission meeting, resident Ruthanne Stadnik said the city needs to diversify its lodging accommodations. “We really need some lodging places other than vacation rentals.”
“As long as the hotel is up against the Drive and no taller than the Gables I am okay with it. But if they plan to put up a tall building right up against the houses [behind the Shoppes of Wilton Manors] I am sure they will get quite a fight from neighbors,” said Kevin Knorr, who lives near the Shoppes of Wilton Manors.
In a previous interview, Paul Rolli, president of the Central Area Neighborhood Association, who lives directly behind the Shoppes of Wilton Manors, said the support or opposition by nearby residents would depend on the plans when and if they are presented.