Margaritaville Hollywood Beach takes development challenges in stride

Forty years after the debut of the song “Margaritaville,” Jimmy Buffett is doing anything but wasting away. Since Buffett debuted the Margaritaville Beach Hotel in Pensacola, Fla., in 2010, he’s expanded the hotel component of his Margaritaville brand empire to 10 existing properties, with 13 more in active development, including the 300-acre, $750-million Margaritaville Resort Orlando.

But it’s the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort in South Florida that serves as the brand’s flagship property. The 349-room beachfront resort opened its doors in 2015, following a six-year development process that was wholly worth the effort to the resort’s developer, Lon Tabatchnick, who told HOTEL MANAGEMENT that at the time, there was no other parcel of land like it on the South Florida stretch between South Beach and Palm Beach. “Sometimes developers have to create great opportunities and sometimes they’re there and we have to make sure we don’t ruin them,” he said. “This was a combination.”

At the time, the area had little to no hotel development coming out of the ground and Tabatchnick realized the risk, but was willing to take it based on the strength of the location and the Margaritaville brand. Convincing the local community that the resort would contribute to its classic Florida charm, rather than alter it, was a challenge. Moreover, the lot was the site of a large public parking garage that serviced the beachfront and the many businesses on its Boardwalk; locals were intent on keeping the structure.

To design the property, he joined forces with Margaritaville Hospitality Group and Coral Hospitality, which jointly manage the resort, as well as Adache Group Architects, The McBride Company and Rockwell Group. Incorporating a new and larger parking garage into the resort’s design plan proved a boon for the property. With more than 1,000 spaces, the multistory garage is operated as a public-private partnership with its own access points to keep it from impacting the resort’s guest traffic flow. From a structural standpoint, the resort was built as a function of the garage and GM Cate Farmer said the resulting construction challenges really came down to dollars and cents.

Sitting below the garage’s footprint, the 5,300-square-foot lobby accommodates a check-in area and concierge desk where the resort’s signature 14-foot blue flip-flop sculpture is the focal point as well as a traditional seating area centered under a signature chandelier made of hundreds of margarita glasses and even three “beach cabanas” that provide seating with a sense of privacy. “We benefited from the garage because it resulted in the grandeur of the lobby and that’s guests first impression when they enter the resort,” Farmer said. These design elements combined with the hotel’s offerings contribute to the property’s “casual-luxe” setting—where cocktails and kids are catered to simultaneously—that embodies Buffett’s escapism lifestyle.

The garage delivered another advantage: The hotel’s rooms are all located on floors 11 to 17. Since the resort sits on five acres between A1A and Hollywood Beach, all rooms have water views of the Atlantic, the Intracoastal Waterway or both. Tabatchnick attested that there are no rooms with bad views. “All rooms have great unobstructed views of the ocean as far as you can see,” he said.

As with many beachfront hotels in Florida, the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort’s design also includes outdoor lighting that does not deter sea turtles from nesting on the beach as well as hurricane glass, hurricane wall structures built to accommodate flood elevations. But beyond those features, Tabatchnick, along with Coral Hospitality and Margaritaville Hospitality Group, which together drove the resort’s layout, functionality and operational design, also incorporated additional local features such as commissioning local artists to paint the tiles that are displayed on the ceiling of the resort’s Margaritaville Restaurant and working with local spear fishermen to procure the catch of the day at the resort’s JWB Prime Steak & Seafood, introduced as the first upscale Jimmy Buffett dining experience. Also, as part of the public-private partnership that won Tabatchnick the request for proposal, the resort also manages the Hollywood Beach Bandshell that’s located on the Boardwalk just outside of the resort, which offers free, live entertainment five nights a week to resort guests and locals alike.

“The elements are really unique and representative of charming old Florida so our guests can also have the same experience as our locals,” Farmer said. Tabatchnick pointed out that the garage provides an easy parking solution for guests from local drive markets while the resort’s FlowRider surfing simulator, St. Somewhere Spa and seven of its eight Jimmy Buffett-branded dining venues also drive hyper-local traffic into the resort. But following a long history of failed RFP processes by other developers, Tabatchnick doesn’t attribute his proposal’s win simply to providing public parking and allowing locals to use the resort’s facilities. “Jimmy Buffett’s iconic brand and lifestyle were a perfect fit for Hollywood and that really gave us an extra edge over other proposals that didn’t really fit the Hollywood Beach brand that the city was looking to promote,” he said.