June 2, 2023


Just Do Travel

Key International scraps plans for Vilano Beach hotel purchase

Key International had planned to build larger hotel, and residents opposed the project

Key International, the Miami-based developer that planned to buy the Magic Beach Motel and turn it into the 194-room Vilano Beach Hotel, has decided not to purchase the property.

The move comes less than a month after the St. Johns County Commission voted 4-0 to uphold the North Coastal Design Review Board’s denial of the design approval application after Key International appealed.

Feliza Jensen, daughter of the owners and front desk worker at the Magic Beach Motel, told The Record on Monday that Key International decided not to buy the motel.  

Key International, the same firm that developed the Embassy Suites in St. Augustine Beach, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on Monday through a public relations firm.

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But residents of Vilano Beach — a coastal community just north of the St. Augustine inlet — and other parts of the county opposed the project, citing concerns about overdevelopment in the area. 

Vilano Beach includes a town center south of the Vilano bridge, residential areas and multiple hotels.

Residents formed the North Beach Community Alliance and, among other things, gathered signatures for a petition to pause developments “within the Vilano Main Street zone until a much-needed assessment of the infrastructure status be completed to determine if the community can support and sustain the extensive current and proposed projects,” according the group’s website. The county has not paused overall development. 

Carol Anderson, a member of the North Beach Community Alliance, said there is a large group of people interested in keeping the “small beach community vibe” in Vilano Beach. 

“I think the thing for us going forward is that we really want to continue to get the community involved. We had an awful lot of people who stepped up and did a lot of work to help the county recognize that wasn’t the right thing for that particular plot of land,” Anderson said. 

The county has deemed the Magic Beach Motel to be culturally significant, according to First Coast News, which first reported that Key International had dropped plans to buy the property.