The first resort to be built in Key Largo in 21 years highlights a slate of hotel projects that are under construction throughout the Florida Keys.
Construction began early this year on the 154-room Playa Largo Resort & Spa, which will be part of the Marriott International Autograph Collection. Opening is planned for summer 2015.
Developed by Prime Hospitality Group of Hollywood, Fla., the resort will have what Prime CEO Larry Abbo describes as a "British West Indies, Caribbean-esque" motif and will feature its own 745-foot-long beach, a spa, a 26-slip marina, a bayfront pool, two restaurants, three bars and 6,000 square feet of retail space.
"It is a place where you can stay for an extended period without having to leave the property to find a different experience," Abbo said.
Throughout the Florida Keys, strict growth regulations imposed by the state have all but halted the construction of new hotel properties over the past two decades. In Key Largo, the last tourist accommodation of any sort to be built was the 10-unit Dove Creek Lodge in 2004, which caters mainly to fishermen. Key Largo's newest full-service resort is the Marriott Key Largo Bay, constructed in 1993.
Playa Largo, Abbo said, will cater to top-end tourists who have been left behind as other Upper Keys resorts have aged.
"We are going to have the opportunity to design what guests are looking for in this century," he said.
It's not just the developers who are touting Playa Largo, which will be managed by the Pennsylvania-based Shaner Hotel Group. Sylvia Murphy, the mayor of Monroe County (which includes the Florida Keys), said the project could be transformative.
"I think it's going to be the crown jewel of Key Largo's hotel industry," she said. "When it goes online and people begin to go there, I think other places on the island will begin to spruce up a little bit."
While Playa Largo is under construction, major hotels in Marathon and Key West are scheduled to open.
In Marathon, Prime Hospitality is also the developer of a 95-room Courtyard by Marriott that is looking toward an opening in the first quarter of next year.
The hotel, said Abbo, will have 3,000 square feet each of restaurant and retail space, a pool facing the Gulf of Mexico and a 15-slip marina.
Just a block away, the 125-room Hyatt Place Marathon/Florida Keys, developed by the Key West-based Spottswood Cos., is slated to be open by December, said General Manager Steve Robbins. The hotel will feature two pools, a restaurant and a 72-slip marina.
Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce CEO Daniel Samess expects the Courtyard and Hyatt to improve the online visibility of the Middle Keys.
"You have two hotels and some of the world's most renowned flagships," he said. "That's going to make it easier for people to find Marathon."
Farther south, in Key West, four hotels, which sit next to one another at the entrance to the island, are preparing to open in July or August. Combined, the new Fairfield Inn & Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn and the Gates boutique hotel will have 519 rooms.
Developer J.L. Woode of Chicago and Charleston, S.C., has redeveloped all four properties and is calling them the Keys Collection. They'll replace a Days Inn, Lexington, Quality Inn and Comfort Inn that had become run down. Room prices at the four properties will primarily cater to the middle of the market.
Murphy, the county mayor, is upbeat about the new lodges up and down the Florida Keys.
"There will be more of a choice, something for everyone," she said.