Madeira Beach leaders, residents praise Schooner Resort Hotel plan

The developer says the beachfront project would contain rooms and retail space, connected by a bridge over Gulf Boulevard.

The Schooner Resort Hotel would have a five-story hotel facing the beach, connected by a walkway to another two-story hotel building across Gulf Boulevard that includes parking and retail space. [Illustration courtesy of John A. Bodziak]
The Schooner Resort Hotel would have a five-story hotel facing the beach, connected by a walkway to another two-story hotel building across Gulf Boulevard that includes parking and retail space. [Illustration courtesy of John A. Bodziak]

MADEIRA BEACH — The city will have a new mixed-use development, one most residents and commission members appear to be pleased with from the outset. The new venture, called Schooner Resort Hotel, will be located on both sides of Gulf Boulevard around 145th Street.

The developer is John Bodziak, who has done a number of projects in the city. Bodziak presented his plans at a recent City Commission meeting. The commission approved a zoning change to the properties, which was needed to move the project forward.

The proposal appeared well received, although a couple of commission members wanted changes made to its style and design elements. The plan contains no buildings higher than five stories over one story of parking, which may have helped in securing a positive reception.

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The development, as proposed, will spread out on both sides of Gulf Boulevard. It would replace the aging apartments and a vacant lot on the east side, and the existing Schooner Hotel, built in the 1950s, on the Gulf side. A five-story 40-unit hotel with a beachfront restaurant/bar would face the Gulf, while a two-story building across the street would have 16 hotel suites and retail space. An added layer of parking is at ground level on each of these buildings.

An elevated pedestrian bridge over Gulf Boulevard would connect the two properties. That will need approval from the Florida Department of Transportation, Bodziak said.

The architectural drawings show an ornate style, with towers atop both buildings and at each end of the footbridge.

“A standout look,” as Bodziak described it. He said he wants to create a landmark hotel, along the lines of the Vinoy and Don CeSar.

“I want to make a statement, a unique branding,” Bodziak said. “There are very few opportunities to do unique properties on any of the local beaches.”

To accomplish his goals, Bodziak won approval from the commission to change the zoning, which gave him more flexibility in the design.

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Bodziak said he had also held a number of neighborhood meetings with residents on the Schooner development, and the reactions had been “very positive.”

The commission members were generally supportive of the proposed development, while having some concerns and suggestions about the design, which is conceptual at this stage.

“It’s a great project,” said Mayor Maggi Black, while adding she believes the design “needs to fit in more with the quiet, fishing village image.”

“Tone down the fanciness,” she advised. Black also said she was not in favor of the overhead walkway.

Commissioner Deby Weinstein said the development “has a lot of potential,” though she called for “a more beachy, Key West look.”

City Manager Jonathan Evans said the designers wanted to “set the development standard, and be a real showcase piece for Madeira Beach, with a higher quality boutique hotel.”

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Residents who spoke on the Schooner development were nearly all in favor.

Robert Preston called it “an awesome addition to the city.”

Mike Burke, president of the condominium to the south of the planned development, said, “We’re generally supportive of the development. We think it will improve the area.” He did say he was concerned about the decorative towers on top of the building rising above five stories.

Curt Miller, a business owner, said the buildings in the area now “are dilapidated and an eyesore.” “There’s a need for a statement piece,” Miller said. “This helps everybody.”

This article was originally published by Tampa Bay Newspapers on Feb. 25, 2019.

Wayne Ayers is a correspondent for Tampa Bay Newspapers.