Work in progress: Marco Hilton hustles to complete $40 million makeover

Lance Shearer

There’s a lot of work yet to be done.

Once again, a major beachfront Marco Island hotel has been closed for the summer, to perform a multi-million-dollar makeover. Last year, it was the Marco Island Marriott, which closed for three months to begin a massive renovation.

This summer, the Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort & Spa closed on June 1 for a $40 million improvement project at the property. At that time, Olshan Properties, the hotel’s corporate owner, said the property would reopen by mid-October, but the date has been pushed back to roughly the first week of December, said Marco Hilton General Manager Mac Chaudhry. The key, he said, is to be fully operational in time for the influx of visitors who flock to Marco for the winter tourist season.

Heavy equipment carries construction material in front of the hotel. The Marco Island Hilton has been closed since June 1 as the hotel undergoes a $40 million renovation.

Toward the end of October, the parking lot at the hotel was filled with shipping containers, construction materials, scaffolding and scores of workers in hardhats, swarming over the property inside and out like an ants’ nest that had been kicked. The front entrance to the hotel to the hotel consisted of a plywood barricade to keep air conditioning inside, with one hinged panel that could be pulled open for entry. The hotel has permits from the City of Marco Island to work double shifts to complete the project, said Chaudhry.

When the work is complete, he said, “the results will be breathtaking. We’re expanding the lobby, opening it up to a view of the Gulf of Mexico, with floor to ceiling glass where there used to just be doors.”

Outside at the pool area, the entire deck has been removed, with a tiki hut removed to enhance beach and water views. Much of the remake of the hotel’s public spaces seems to be aimed at emphasizing the major drawing card, the white sugar-sand beach just behind. Ground floor rooms and suites are being given lanais with direct pool access.

The transformation includes a redesigned 11th floor penthouse level with 16 new one- and two-bedroom suites. On the first floor, the resort will add seven lanai junior suites with private lounges and direct pool access. With the additions, the resort will have 310 rooms, up from 298.

The resort's last major improvement project occurred in 2012, when the owners undertook a $9 million renovation and update of its guest rooms, so with the exceptions noted, individual rooms will be largely unchanged.

Other outdoor features, said Briana Ciraulo, senior account executive at the Miami office of DKC, the hotel chain’s public relations firm, include a redecorated 5,200-square foot grand ballroom, and “a completely new beach and pool experience with full-service bar, hot tub, fire pit nook and ‘the Gulf Cart,’ a mobile beach snack and drink service.

General manager Mac Chaudhry, left, speaks with project manager Brian Welsh of Manhattan Construction. The Marco Island Hilton has been closed since June 1 as the hotel undergoes a $40 million renovation.
Equipment is set into place behind the lobby, where the entire pool area is being revamped. The Marco Island Hilton has been closed since June 1 as the hotel undergoes a $40 million renovation.
The hotel's lobby has been opened up to the beach and Gulf behind. The Marco Island Hilton has been closed since June 1 as the hotel undergoes a $40 million renovation.

More traditional dining options will be offered at The Deck at 560 – 560 South Collier Blvd. is the hotel’s address – which will replace two previous restaurant offerings, with unobstructed Gulf of Mexico views from diners’ seats. A corresponding “grab and go” casual food vendor, called 560 Market, will also be available.

All of the resort's 12,000 square feet of meeting space are being upgraded and remodeled. New rooms will be created for smaller events and breakout sessions. Patios will be improved to accommodate outdoor events and networking before and after events. Other improvements will include enhanced high speed Internet, digital signs in meeting rooms and upgrades to its catering kitchen.

The project will also create a new event space on the lawn with a view of the Gulf of Mexico. The main pool will be upgraded with the addition of a children's water play area, as well as a hot tub and new seating on the upper deck.

The Hilton is a major employer and economic engine on Marco Island, employing approximately 185, according to Ciraulo. Currently, about 250 construction workers are employed on the renovations, said Brian Welsh, project manager for Manhattan Construction Group, the general contractor.

With its affiliated companies, Olshan Properties owns or manages a hotel portfolio of six properties, including three in Ohio, one in Illinois, and the Sheraton Suites Galleria in Atlanta in addition to the Marco Hilton, along with commercial, retail, and residential properties in 11 states.

Construction cranes dot the landscape up and down the beach. Just south of the Marco Hilton, construction proceeds full speed on additions to Crystal Shores, the interval ownership resort of Marriott’s Vacation Club, and half a mile to the north, the actual Marriott hotel, aka the Marco Island Marriott Resort, Golf Club, & Spa, is open for guests while still working on their enhanced meeting spaces. That hotel is scheduled to debut as a luxury tier J.W. Marriott property on Jan. 1, 2017.