There are a lot of storylines in Wilton Manors and one that seems destined for another round of discussion is the development of a hotel.
When the city changed its land-use code at the Aug. 24 commission meeting, regulations were loosened to allow for the construction of hotels with 50 or less rooms. Now, said former Wilton Manors Commissioner Julie Carson, there is a path for a developer to approach city officials and interested stakeholders.
“The right boutique hotel in the Island City could spark tourism, boost business opportunities, foster arts and entertainment and power the city into a new chapter of sustainable economic growth,” said Carson.
Growth that Joe Pallant would like to see. Pallant, founder of Pallant Insurance Agency, has attended commission meetings and spoke favorably for development projects.
“A hotel and a rail platform will transform Wilton Manors terrifically and bring more people here,” Pallant told the Gazette.
Much of the past hotel speculation has centered on the Shoppes of Wilton Manors. The shopping center, home to popular gay nightclubs Georgie’s Alibi and Hunter’s, sits on five and a half acres of prime real estate in the city’s arts and entertainment district.
However, the recent changes to city code have Mark Seymour, one of the owners of Hunter’s, concerned his business may have to relocate.
“If the property owners decided to put a hotel on the one side of the property where the current Sherwin Williams store is they would only be allowed as many units as two acres would permit, giving the developer an incentive to take down the whole site so the plan would have the full amount of units,” Seymour said. “Who would want to build a hotel on the property with 125 rooms as opposed to 300 rooms?”
Grass River Property, a Coconut Grove-based real estate investment and services company, is the owner of the Shoppes of Wilton Manors. At a July 27 public hearing, before Wilton Manors commissioners voted to increase heights and density in the city’s transit-oriented corridors, Jorge Espinal addressed the commission on behalf of Grass River Property.
“At Grass River we’re all about creating cool developments, what we like to call urban nodes,” Espinal said. “We want to keep Alibi and the Hunter’s and we want to keep this sort of hot spot in town, but with all these limitations that are being proposed we’ll never be able to develop something there that’s going to give back.”
Like Espinal, Traci Golownia, an architect with RSP Architects, has been present at commission meetings and spoken during the public hearings. Golownia told the Gazette she felt the city was headed in the right direction.
“The city is thriving and increasing density is a positive that will allow for thoughtful and appropriate development,” Golownia said. “Everyone realizes the uniqueness of the community and any project should approach with respecting that uniqueness in mind.”
Golownia said a hotel is an important part of the development process, but it wasn’t at the top of her projects’ list.
“Yes, but it’s not the first area of development,” she said.