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A real estate finance company plans to purchase the Shoppes of Wilton Manors, keep the retail component, and add what would be Wilton Manors’ first hotel.

“We would love to build a hotel. We’re considering a lot of different things,” said George Spillis, of Coconut Grove-based Grass River Property. “My partners and I desperately want to build a hotel on the property.” But Spillis stressed that everything is still in the preliminary stages and the company is still working with architects to come up with a design.

Roberta Moore, Community Development Services director, said the property is zoned for a hotel but developers would have to go before commissioners for approval of their site plan and a replat of the property.

City officials have expressed support for the idea of a hotel in the city and have tried unsuccessfully to bring in someone to commit to a public/private partnership to develop the Hagen Park parking lot. The desire to get a hotel built is also one of the city’s objectives in its new Economic Development Plan, which was presented in December. If Grass River Property were to build a hotel, City Manager Leigh Ann Henderson said city staff would most likely consider that objective satisfied.

Asked if plans include demolishing the current shopping center, Spillis said it would be kept intact and continued to be used for retail. The only new thing would be the hotel. “If anything, we’ll be renovating. We know the retail works there.”

If approved, Spillis estimated that the hotel would probably be between 120 and 125 rooms. “We would hope to start construction in 2018.” Henderson said that number is similar to what the city wants to see built.

Doug Blevins, chair of the Wilton Drive Improvement District, has been a longtime proponent of a hotel on Wilton Drive and he’s in favor of one at the Shoppes of Wilton Manors. “I’d like to see a public/private partnership but I’m in support of any decent, moderate-sized hotel.
Nothing overbearing or overshadowing [the neighborhood] ... as long as they have a parking garage component.”

Blevins added the tax base would be increased and that with more tourists staying in the city, instead of just at the vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts, the daytime businesses would benefit. “Economically, it would be a real boon to the city. The time is perfect for a hotel.”

Paul Rolli, president of the Central Area Neighborhood Association [CANA], who lives in the neighborhood directly behind the shopping center, is less certain than Blevins about the possible hotel. He said he, and the CANA board, would want to meet with the developers and see their plans first before he either supported or opposed it. “It’s too early to tell.”