40-million makeover

GM Steven Falciani says Hilton will reopen sometime this summer

Lance Shearer

The most recent reopening date for the Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort & Spa is at least more than two months away, and possibly as many as five.

Steven Falciani, general manager of the hotel, which has been closed since last June due to smoke and water damage from an electrical fire, gave an upbeat but non-specific answer when asked when they will again be ready to accommodate overnight guests.

“Right now, we’re saying summer. I can’t put an exact date on it,” said Falciani, adding that is the question he gets from everyone. The hotel is open for meetings and events such as weddings, with public spaces completed first, he emphasized, and the beach bar and outside dining area, The Deck at 560, is open for business.

Hilton general manager Steve Falciani on the outside deck. Work continues at the Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort & Spa, with meeting rooms, bar and outside deck restaurant open, but no overnight guests expected until sometime in the summer.

“We’ve been greeting 200 guests a day” in the month of March, said Falciani. “A lot of people think we’re closed, but the hotel has kind of been functioning as a beach club.

“We’ve done lots of meetings, events, several of over 200 people. We’re busy all day long.” The inside dining room opened, then closed again, as additional enhancements were incorporated into the design.

But at night, Falciani is left presiding over a hotel with no guests, sort of like a ship in drydock or a school with no pupils. Initially, renovations were scheduled to be complete in four months, allowing the Hilton to be open for the just-ending winter tourist season. In November, interim general manager Robert Marcil gave a date of March 7 for complete reopening, with a previously booked convention occurring in February.

But just like the restaurant, other areas of the hotel, including its 310 guest rooms and suites, are receiving more upgrades. The rooms were originally scheduled to be redone in 2018, so ownership made the decision, with the hotel already closed to guests, to go ahead and do all of the renovations at once.

The result, said Falciani, will essentially be a brand-new resort.

“This property has to be, not just renovated, but completely redefined,” he said. “The owners are putting a lot into it – $40 million.”

Standing on the deck overlooking the open-air bar, Falciani gestured to the broad stretch of white sand beach and the Gulf of Mexico beyond.

“If you ask me, this is what it’s all about,” he said. “There are very few places you have elegant dining, right on the beach like this. We’re very popular at sunset.”

The deck, made of a sustainable Brazilian hardwood, also overlooks the closed-off pool area, where scores of chaise longues sit empty.

“It’s kind of eerie, seeing this hotel with no one staying in it,” said Ed Zasada, visiting from Elgin, IL with his wife Joanne and family, although they nevertheless thoroughly enjoyed hanging out on the beach and at the open-air bar.

Olshan Properties, the privately-owned commercial real estate firm that owns the hotel, along with hotel properties in Ohio, the Chicago and Atlanta, announced Falciani’s appointment in an April 9 press release, although he actually started at the Marco Hilton in December. The company owns and/or manages properties in 11 states.

“As the Marco Island Beach Resort & Spa reopening approaches we are thrilled to have someone with Steve’s wealth of industry experience join Olshan’s dedicated and passionate hospitality team as general manager,” said CEO Andrea Olshan in the release. “Among our 1,447-key portfolio this hotel, in particular, holds great sentimental value for me as I grew up vacationing here with my family.”

Falciani joined Olshan Properties most recently from the Dow Hotel Company, where he served as Area Director and General Manager for the DoubleTree by Hilton in Rosemont, IL and the Embassy Suites Rosemont.  Before that he was senior vice president of franchise operations for 70+ location restaurant group headquartered in Sharon, PA. Falciani received his bachelor of science degree in hotel and restaurant management from Widener University.

The Hilton, which also closed for approximately six months two years ago for a previous round of renovations, last summer had liens for more than $12 million filed against it by two dozen contractors, including Manhattan Construction, owned by U.S. Representative Francis Rooney. Falciani said is his understanding the contractors are satisfied, and work will continue to allow the hotel to open on its revised timetable.