By Cheryl Blackerby
Almost 40 years after its Camino Real groundbreaking on the waterfront, the Boca Raton Bridge Hotel has gotten the go-ahead for a major renovation that developers say will take full advantage of its prime location.
The Boca Raton City Council voted unanimous approval on Feb. 12 for owner AWH Partners’ plans to transform the 1970s design into a contemporary boutique hotel by the end of the year.
“It’s a beautiful property,” said Deputy Mayor Susan Haynie, “and this is really a beautiful improvement to it.”
The plans call for a redesigned entrance, a new valet parking system, updated guest room furnishings, an expanded fitness center and a new ground-level public restaurant on the Intracoastal waterfront. The 11th-floor restaurant and lounge will be casualties of the renovation, replaced by banquet and meeting rooms.
AWH Partners, a New York-based real estate group, bought the property for $20.2 million in September after it had languished in bankruptcy for about eight months. The company owns 15 hotels around the country, including the 490-room Sheraton Lake Buena Vista resort in Orlando.
The new owners of the Bridge Hotel have hired Lane Hospitality, a Northbrook, Ill., hotel management company, to run the 121-room property. The renovation is expected to be completed by the fall.
Mayor Susan Whelchel said the project will give the public access to waterfront space, something that is in short supply in the city.
Russ Flicker, a principal with AWH Partners, had worked with the city before, overseeing the condo project at the Boca Raton Resort & Club for The Blackstone Group.
“Our past experience in Boca Raton was extremely positive,” Flicker said. “We are passionate about the market and its assets.”
Instead of a parking tunnel lined with utility pipes to get to the hotel’s front doors, a driveway lined with palm trees will take guests to a redesigned, welcoming lobby.
The hotel has had parking issues virtually since its inception. Based on today’s codes, the property has only about half the 487 spaces it would need to qualify as compliant and has been classified as “legally nonconforming” for years. But the developers say the new valet system will help improve parking and get the most out of the limited space. The city’s Planning and Zoning Board agreed and passed the plans 6-0 in January.
By Cheryl Blackerby