Where To Stay On Clearwater Beach? Choices Grow With New Hotels

There is only so much waterfront property in the world.

With that guiding principle in mind, Tampa Physician, Philanthropist and Developer Kiran Patel struck one of the most expensive land deals in Pinellas County history when he purchased nearly three acres of Gulf view property on Clearwater Beach for $40 million in 2004.

But plans for high-rise condominiums and a luxury hotel were scuttled as the real estate boom turned bust.

Until now.

While scaled down, plans for Patel's palatial resort are back on the table as the project is expected to break ground in the next six months heralding a seeming real estate renaissance on Clearwater Beach. It is one of 16 projects including more than 2,000 hotel rooms slated for construction on the island in the next 18 months.

"I am believer in Clearwater, says Patel. "(It) has one of the best beaches in the country and the world. And I believe that people are now starting to look at this as a destination place.''

Projects On The Horizon

Once planned as a $250-million luxury resort with 15-story condominium towers, Patel's project now has 450 rooms, with 105 of them timeshare units.

The property at the corner of Gulfview Boulevard and Coronado Drive used to be the site of the Spyglass Motel, Days Inn, the Beach Towers Motel and Golden Beach Motel.

The Spyglass Motel was destroyed in epic fashion in 2008 when television illusionist Criss Angel escaped from the imploding building. Since then the land was converted into what some consider the state's most expensive parking lot.

"It is a much scaled down project. It is much less in mass and size than in the heydays of the real estate boom,'' Patel says. "Because economic conditions are changing. I am going back to explore how to complete what I started.''

Other projects already have started to be built. A 15-story, 230-room hotel is under construction where the Adams Mark hotel once was at 430 Gulfview.

Projects are not just on south beach. Construction on East Shore Drive, where the city recently completed infrastructure upgrades, includes a 107-room hotel at the former Traveler Motel, 408 East Shore Drive, and a 134-room Courtyard by Marriott, 443 East Shore Drive.

"I think the current spat of construction is responding to very strong demand,'' says Michael Delk, City of Clearwater Planning Director. "But I suspect it will encourage more demand. It will continue to benefit the beach and continue to grow the beach as a major destination point. We weathered the downturn better than most. When the turnaround really started happening and people started traveling again, the market came back really strong.''

The number of visitors coming to Pinellas County continues on the upswing. There were 5,579,900 overnight visitors in 2013, an increase of 144,900 from 2012, according to the Annual 2013 Visitor Profile report released by the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. It is the fifth year in a row the area has seen tourism increase.

Designing Beaches

Beach By Design are the rules for development on Clearwater Beach. The code allows for denser development and eased parking rules. They were heavily discussed, debated and drafted in early 2001. Beach Walk, a redeveloped pedestrian friendly promenade to help lure hotel development, was also part of the plan.

Part of the code offers developers increased hotel room numbers from a density pool. They started with 1,385 rooms to allocate for denser development to entice beach projects. About half of those density pool rooms are left, Delk says.

"I think Beach by Design was very forward thinking,'' Delk says. "(It's) really aggressive in terms of defining objectives and putting a framework in place to achieve them.''

While independent mom and pop motels still dot parts of the beach, there is a need for more upscale accommodations, says Darlene Kole, president of the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce.

"It's just improving beyond belief. … Properties that were lost in 2008 when there was the economic downturn, now they're all coming back,'' Kole says. "I'm just watching it even with the siting properties. Landscaping, rebuilding, refreshing. You're seeing it all. The growth out here is phenomenal.''

By The Numbers

Here's a breakdown of the more than 2,000 rooms planned within the next 18 months on Clearwater Beach:
  • Wyndham Grand Resort (Patel project), 100 Coronado Ave, 345
  • Ocean Properties, formerly the Adams Mark, 430 Gulfview, 230
  • Mainstream Partners, 353/405 Coronado Ave, 192
  • Courtyard by Marriott, 443 East Shore Drive, 134
  • Holiday Inn & Suites, 521 Gulfview Blvd, 125
  • Marquesas LLC, 0 Gulfview, 125
  • Unnamed Hotel, formerly the Traveler Motel, 408 East Shore Drive, 107
  • Unnamed Hotel, Bay Esplanade Project, 650 Bay Esplanade, 102
  • DeNunzio Group, formally the Bayshore Apts, 669 Bay Esplanade, 94
  • Hampton Inn (Ocean Properties), 655 Gulfview Blvd, 80
  • The Views - Enchantment, Wyndham Garden Clearwater Beach, 691 Gulfview, 92
  • Brightwater Blue Resort, numerous demolished motels, 150-190 Brightwater Drive, 54
  • Sea Captain Resort on the Bay, 40 Devon Drive, 58
  • Gulfview Hotel on the Beach, 625 Gulfview Blvd, 39
  • Tropicana Resort - Hotel A, formerly Sea Cove, 316 Hamden, 118
  • Tropicana Resort - Hotel B, 300 Hamden Drive, 142

Jared Leone is a freelance writer living in Clearwater. He writes about all things Tampa Bay. Follow him @jared_leone on Twitter. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Jared Leone.

Jared Leone is a feature writer at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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