The manager for what will be a new hotel in the heart of Flagler Beach says that while plenty of work remains to be done, construction may start either in the second or third quarter of 2022.
“We’re in the planning and design phase right now, so there’s still a lot of work to be done before we can present something that we can pull a permit on, break ground in,” says Manoj Bhoola, manager of Elite Hospitality, the Ormond Beach-based firm that bought the land under the corporate name Sun partners LLC. Bhoola is a fixture in the hotelier scene in Volusia County and managed the Margaritaville Beach Hotel in Jacksonville Beach, a 202-room, eight-story project on the ocean that may have affinities with the Flagler Beach project.
Elite Hospitality had bought the property for $11 million. That $50 million project was completed a month early, opening last January after breaking ground in March 2019, just as the pandemic was beginning to cascade across the country, with a two-story LandShark Bar & Grill restaurant, retail space and 200 parking spaces. The project suggests Elite Hospitality is not made of quick sands.
Bhoola was not ready to reveal what franchises are in the running. But it may not be difficult to figure out. Elite has worked with Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn and Suites, Margaritaville Beach Hotel, Castillo Real and Best Western among others. “We’re not coming in with a cookie cutter Hampton Inn and forcing it down the throat of the locals,” Bhoola said, which narrows the possibilities somewhat, salting the rim of that margarita. “Right now talking to a lot of local constituents of what would be a good fit, and then talking to some franchises, possible franchises as well. If everything goes perfectly, it could be the second or third quarter of 2022, but there’s still a lot of variables right now.” He said he was in talks specifically with two franchises at the moment. “It is a franchise that I have dealt with before,” Bhoola said, and that’s “very fitting of Flagler Beach’s lifestyle.”
“Crossing our fingers,” Flagler Beach City Manager William Whitson said. “What we’re doing right now is finalizing the design and make sure that it complies with all of the planning standards and things like that. And once it gets through that process, then they can submit for permits.” The site plan will go before the planning board and the commission, but there is no date yet. “The details of all of that will come out in the next few months as they go through this process.”
A year ago in a regulatory step the Flagler Beach City Commission cleared the way for the three-story hotel to be built on the 1.3-acre lot. The lot was owned until July by William and Zoee Forehand, the Flagler beach residents and business owners. They sold the lot for $3.8 million. Zoee Forehand had made clear to the commission that she had been closely involved in the redevelopment plans in the run up to the sale, and that she intended to remain involved even after the sale, not wanting the project to transgress her idea of a good fit for the city in the area that defines it most. But her plan was as much forward-looking as restorative.
The Flagler Beach Resort, a four-story hotel, had occupied the lot for nearly 50 years until it was demolished in 1972. It had at one point been the city’s tallest structure, its ocean views unobstructed, as will be the case with the new hotel: only Veterans Park stands between the hotel grounds and the boardwalk.
“She is involved,” Bhoola said of Forehand, who could not be reached today. “That’s part and parcel of what you’re going to see in the final project.” Meanwhile, various amenities from a meeting space to a restaurant to other ideas are being considered, depending on what the “local customization” would inspire.
The construction project is expected to generate a sizeable number of jobs, followed by more permanent jobs at the hotel itself. The property, currently valued at just under $1 million as an empty lot, will gain considerable value on the tax rolls, generating well above the $5,000 it did for Flagler Beach’s coffers last year, and the $20,000 it did for all local governments combined.