| Florida Times-Union
JACKSONVILLE BEACH | The first guests were four hours away from checking in Tuesday as the staff of the Margaritaville Beach Hotel on the oceanfront finished last-minute preparations to welcome them.
The resort hotel at 715 1st St. N. boasting 202 guest rooms and suites and the popular LandShark Bar & Grill restaurant opened at least a month ahead of schedule despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which slowed some supplies at one point.
Kristin Delgado, hotel general manager, said confidently that all would be well and glitches such as a balky elevator and intermittent air conditioning hiccups would be remedied by 3 p.m. guest check-in.
The estimated $50 million hotel and restaurant project is the first of several major developments to be completed in the three Beaches municipalities.
Margaritaville has evolved from a catchy pop song by island lifestyle troubadour Jimmy Buffet into a global lifestyle and hospitality brand.
The eight-story hotel is just a couple of blocks north of the landmark Jacksonville Beach Pier in the heart of the oceanfront city.
“Everybody needs a little Margaritaville in their life,” Delgado said. The beachfront location and brand alone make the hotel unique, she said.
‘It”s all about the experience and giving people a break, escapism really,” she said. “It’s a great place to dine and hang out.”
The hotel has three Margaritaville-inspired dining options with oceanview outdoor seating, a 1,050-square-foot retail store and a 1,700-square-foot meeting room.
Other amenities include a pool with boardwalk access, a fitness center, a business center, an outdoor firepit and public lounge spaces.
In a city where parking can be a challenge, the hotel has 215 parking spaces.
Margaritaville also means growth and job opportunities for the area, past and present city leaders say.
The hotel is a significant asset to the city — both economically and as a contributor to an overall family-friendly atmosphere for Jacksonville Beach, said former Mayor Charlie Latham.
Margaritaville was among the major developments launched during Latham’s tenure. Latham was term-limited out of office after eight years but remains an advocate for economic growth in the community.
Latham said he firmly believes Margaritaville and other new hotels coming to the city “are the best thing we could have done for downtown development in creating more of a family atmosphere.”
Hotels such as Margaritaville and the soon-to-be-completed Element by Westin are key to the community being known as a destination for families as well as business travelers.
“If you have hotels downtown, you are going to draw in other businesses that are going to support the hotels like restaurants, confectionaries and things of that nature,” he said, noting that was his goal for the past couple of years in office.
Latham thinks most guests at the city’s new hotel are going to be families who will enjoy the restaurants, shops and beach. They won’t be coming just to get hammered at the bars and stumble back to their rooms, he said.
The resort city of St. Pete Beach, Latham said, could be a model for Jacksonville Beach.
There is a good mix of businesses in the downtown area, which includes waterfront and it’s very amenable for families.
“You check into your hotel, you take a walk with your family, go to a nice place to eat and go get ice cream. That’s what we need to be at Jax Beach and I hope we can make it,” Latham said.
Element by Westin
Elsewhere in Jacksonville Beach, another new hotel, Element by Westin, is nearly complete.
“Right now, we anticipate opening right at April of this year, April 2021. We were hoping to open before TPC but we’re not going to make it and we’re not going to push it,” said Sonny Bhikha, president and chief operating officer of Shivam Properties, which is the developer of the hotel, located at Third Street and Beach Boulevard.
The estimated $16 million, 80-room hotel is about two months behind schedule due to the pandemic, he said.
“One issue was getting building materials in a timely fashion for everything that we needed to finish … and finding skilled and qualified labor to finish the job also has been difficult because there are so many things going on with pandemic that people have moved on,” he said.
Element by Westin is designed to accommodate business professionals as well as other extended-stay guests. It fills a different niche and needs of guests just like Margaritaville Beach.
Half of the hotel’s rooms will have a mini-kitchen and are intended for extended stays, making the hotel an attractive option for families of patients at nearby Mayo Clinic Jacksonville.
“It’s going to be one of the first extended stay properties here in the Jacksonville Beach market,” he said.
“We feel we are so perfectly centered where we are,” Bhikha said. “We’re focused on the room and the service that we’re going to offer.”
Bhikha also said the Element will use solar power and follow other environmentally friendly practices.
SpringHill Suites by Marriott
But the much-ballyhooed SpringHill Suites by Marriott hotel project appears to be in limbo.
Piles of dirt and demolition rubble behind a chain-link fence mark the idle building site adjacent to the Jacksonville Beach Pier at 412 and 422 First St. N. in Jacksonville Beach.
The proposed five-story, 136-room hotel at the site of the former Pier Cantina and Sandbar previously had been put on hold by the project’s lender due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Aug. 24, 2020, the three-parcel tract, was purchased for $8.4 million by KW JAX Beach Owner LLC of Miami from Jax Pier Lodging Group, according to Duval County property appraiser and court records.
Jax Pier Lodging Group is a subsidiary of the Tennessee-based 3H Group that had started the SpringHIll Suites project.
Key International officials couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday. It was unknown whether the project might resume, according to Jacksonville Beach city officials.
Margaritaville showcases the surfer aesthetic of Jacksonville Beach and infuses it with a timeless tropical vibe embraced by Margaritaville.
The flip-flop conducive LandShark Bar & Grill and its upstairs LandShark Lookout offer American coastal cuisine and dishes inspired by island fare.
To celebrate the opening, LandShark Bar & Grill and LandShark Lookout are donating 10 percent of food and beverage revenue from the last two weekends in February to the nonprofit North Florida Land Trust.
The money raised will help buy a chain of Intracoastal Waterway islands north of Jacksonville’s Butler Boulevard that had been marketed for luxury housing sites.