Katherine Ferrara
Katherine Ferrara

InsightA series of newbuilds and refit projects in the Florida Keys is ushering a wave of new hotel rooms not seen in some areas of the region since the 1980s, when growth restrictions were imposed on the region by the state of Florida.

Nine projects in Key West, Islamorada, Marathon and Key Largo are expected to be completed in the next few years, adding more than 1,600 rooms.

KatherineFerraraJohnsonThe new rooms are a welcome increase to an existing aging inventory, said Stacey Miller, director of sales and marketing with the Monroe County Tourist Development Council. She says the hotels’ fresh, modern designs, embellishments and amenities will entice travelers to spend more time in the tropical destination.

“We’ve moved to a steady stream of year-round tourism with international tourists and families. The Keys overall have shown a successful rate of revenue and occupancy over the past few years, and developers know it’s a sound place to put their money,” said Miller.

Two projects in Key West, a new build and a refit, will add 621 rooms. The Marker Waterfront Resort is the first new hotel built in the Old Town district in 20 years, according to Northwood Hospitality, which manages the luxury boutique hotel and three others in the Florida Keys.

The boutique hotel, named after the mile markers along U.S. 1 that end with Mile Marker 0 just a few blocks away, offers 97 spacious rooms, a restaurant, three pools and fitness center. It is scheduled to open in mid-December.

David McCaslin, president of Northwood Hospitality, said the hotel’s distinct design and amenities reflect several poignant emblems that make Key West famous.

Marker Waterfront ResortHe said strategic partnerships with renowned artists and businesses will allow guests to immerse in the local culture and history. The city’s first legal rum distillery will serve exclusive private label rums at the hotel, and guests can experience private guided tours, cooking classes, and tastings. Bath amenities will be locally sourced from Key West Aloe. A collection of books that pays homage to Key West’s rich literary history will also be available.

The hotel commissioned artist John Martini to create three eco-inspired industrial design pieces. The artwork represents local inhabitants of the Keys - the Marsh Rabbit, Key Deer and an array of exotic birds. Another artist created five Watchovers, each standing 85 inches tall adorned with a pelican that is symbolic of quiet observations and a sign of good fortune for sailors at sea.

On the other end of the island city, a cluster of midprice options is scheduled to open in early 2015. Developers have taken the older Days Inn, Lexington, Quality Inn and Comfort Inn and redeveloped them as the Keys Collection. The new hotels feature a Fairfield Inn & Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn and Gates boutique hotel.

Headed back toward the mainland, Marathon is adding a Courtyard by Marriott, a newbuild that will offer 95 rooms, as well as the Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club, which incorporates the famed lighthouse, will include a 125-room Hyatt Place hotel.

On Islamorada, the former Islamorada Resort is renovating into the boutique Amaya Cay Resort. It includes 105 rooms and suites, an Italian-style eatery, outdoor amenities and daily Mercedes-Benz shuttle service to local spots.

Key Largo is introducing its first newbuild resort in 21 years, the Playa Largo Resort, which is part of the Marriott International Autograph Collection. The luxury resort, described as a “British West Indies, Caribbeanesque” design, will include 144 luxury rooms and suites, private marina, multiple bars and restaurants, full service spa, meetings and event space, private beach, pool and retail space.

It is expected to open in late 2015.

“With limited supply, people are willing to pay the increased room rates, especially the higher-end market. Where else can you go for the Keys experience?” said Scott Smith, a senior vice president with PKF Consulting.

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