Same time next year, it appears Marathon business owners and residents will be counting their blessings and believing the good times are there to stay. Thanks to community visionaries in 2005-2006, who worked with business leaders and government officials to establish regulations to re-develop aging infrastructure, the fruition of many meetings, investment and hard work is manifesting itself in the form of expanded resort accommodation choices, additional employment opportunities, and a new face to structures that were aging — and no amount of Botox was going to erase the structural concerns.
When developer Pritam Singh added 16 single rooms to the Tranquility Bay Resort, the Renaissance period for resorts began. Tranquility Bay is a four-star property in the West end of the city in an area known as Old Town. Previously, it had offered only two- and three-bedroom units. “This added another dimension for visitors — at a lower cost,” said Daniel Samess, chief executive officer of the Marathon Chamber of Commerce.
All of Marathon’s new hotel development is located in the West (south) end, except for Coconut Cay Resort. Coconut Cay Resort is just west of Marathon airport at mile marker 52 bayside. Built in the 1950s, pilots used to arrive at the airport and walk across to the resort for a little rest and relaxation, and possibly some fishing. That’s still possible, but the sleepy days of yore in the Keys has vanished and many more attractions, from swimming with marine creatures to learning about endangered sea turtles, from exploring historical buildings dating to the Florida Keys Oversea Railway to enjoying the white sandy beach of Sombrero Key, are available in Marathon, along with the traditional offerings of fishing, snorkeling and diving.
Unlike Singh who had his own funding sources ready to go when the development regulations changed in Marathon, Coconut Cay owner Jim Rhyne said he has been negotiating for loans for years and only recently with the economy in recovery has his capital needs been met. “For a long time, banks were gun-shy and not friendly to small businesses,” he said. The loan is enabling re-development which will take place in two phases, the first beginning construction in April, and the second phase six to nine months later.
Through Sapodilla Holdings, Rhyne acquired Coconut Cay in 2002, followed by a second hotel which was a lot away, and next, the hotel between the two, which made the property contiguous. Each property had been owned by different people, but altogether comprises 42 units in four buildings. The new buildings have to meet the floodplain requirements which means they must be elevated. See www.coconutcay.com.
Rhyne gives credit to those who worked to encourage re-development and said Marathon is seeing it bear fruit. “We’ll have a model town which will generate a new level of tourism.” Near Tranquility Bay Resort, the next re-developed property to come online next week is the three-story Faro Blanco Hyatt Place Marathon, acquired by the Spottswood Companies, featuring a refurbished Faro Blanco lighthouse on the bay. Opening quietly at first, a special room rate was offered prior to Christmas.
The Hyatt Place has 125 rooms and suites, wi-fi and a 24-hour gym, and coming in early 2015, a full-service marina and yacht club and an elegant waterfront restaurant and bar. According to the website, “Hyatt Place was created to allow the seamless continuation of an active life by reflecting the comfort, options, technology and taste that discerning people have surrounded themselves with at home.” See http://marathonfloridakeys.place.hyatt.com.
The final hotel under construction is a Marriott Courtyard Hotel opening in the spring of 2015 near mile marker 48 with 95 rooms, being developed by Roger Masters and the Prime Hospitality Group.