After months of speculation and sneak previews for city officials, The Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort made public its proposal for expansion of the hotel facilities before the Marco Island Planning Board Friday morning.
General Manager Rick Medwedeff laid out plans for expanded meeting space and additional parking before a full crowd in city council chambers, including a majority of Marco’s city council.
The potential additions, which Medwedeff made clear are not definite pending commitment of up to $150 million in funding from Mass Mutual, the resort’s owner, consisted primarily of two components — increased meeting space and a larger, open parking deck to accommodate the added guests. An enhanced water feature at the hotel’s entrance, spanning both sides of Collier Boulevard, was also part of the proposal.
Medwedeff characterized the expansion as a business necessity, vital for the Marriott to remain competitive in attracting group business. The plan, which he said was “a totally new concept” from the last time the hotel presented a proposal for more meeting space almost three years ago, includes removing about 45,000-square-feet of existing meeting space and replacing it with roughly 75,000-square-feet, bringing the resort’s total to more than 87,000-square-feet of meeting facilities. The addition of 93 additional guest rooms would bring the Marriott’s total number of guest rooms to 810. A rooftop pool and restaurant, open to the Gulf of Mexico, are also included in the plan.
Much of the controversy surrounding the projected expansion has focused on additional parking facilities, particularly the specter of a multi-storey parking garage east of Collier Boulevard. Medwedeff and architect Malcolm Berg presented a one-storey parking deck plan as a compromise for the hotel and its neighbors. Altogether, parking spaces would be increased by about one third, although no specific figure was provided. Tennis courts currently located across the street from the hotel will be relocated off site, with guests shuttled back and forth as they are for golf, and the hotel will move to 100 percent valet parking, they said.
But not everyone saw it as a compromise. Stephen Wahl, who described himself as owning “the property most intimately connected” to the area of expanded parking, spoke against the proposal.
“They can’t block my view. There’s going to be a legal battle, I guarantee it,” he said.
Richard Schulte advocated putting additional parking below grade, but Berg said the cost was prohibitive.
The greatest impact to the island would come, said Medwedeff, not in the high season, when the Marriott averages 92 percent occupancy, but in the shoulder and off-season months, when increased business would be most welcome on Marco Island, particularly among the business community.
“Our goal is to fill up hotel rooms,” he said, and the meeting facilities are a draw to meet that goal. The Marco Marriott contributes an economic impact to Collier County of approximately $152 million annually, said Medwedeff. He claimed the new facilities would increase that by some $46 million per year, with the bulk of the money being spent on Marco Island.
Many more steps will have to occur before a guest sips the first cocktail in the new facilities. Assuming the hotel gets the go-ahead from its ownership to spend the $150 million, they will have to come back to the board with a specific application, obtain variances, pass ordinances and then win approval from the Marco Island City Council for the project.