Magic Beach Motel in Vilano Beach risks demolition, residents’ petition

Neon-lit white rabbits jumping from a top hat adorn the iconic sign of the Magic Beach Motel in Vilano Beach, located at 50 Vilano Road. Flamingos are also a colorful part of this Art Deco motor lodge built in 1951, originally the Vilano Beach Motel.

This monument could be demolished if the sale is closed in December by the developer of Miami Key International, the same company responsible for Embassy Suites in St. Augustine Beach.

The Magic Beach Motel property would be combined with land adjacent to 80 Vilano Road (formerly Pizza Hut in the 1980s and early 90s), and just behind to the north on the Coast Road, both owned by Man. John Arbizzani local business under the trade name 80 Vilano Road LLC.

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The project is called Vilano Beach Hotel, a mixed-use development project that will include 194 hotel rooms, a 5,800 square foot restaurant, 1,800 square feet of retail space and a fitness center. / 4000 square foot spa.

Shannon Acevedo of St. Augustine-based Matthews Design Group, a civil engineering firm, submitted an application this month to St. Johns County Planning and Zoning seeking approval for the design.

“There is not yet a Design Review Board (DRB) meeting date scheduled for the Vilano Beach Hotel project,” said Teresa Bishop, planning division manager for the county. of St. Johns, during a phone call Thursday.

Calls seeking comment from Key International, Matthews Design Group and St. Johns County were not returned at press time.

Diego Ardid, co-president of Key International; representatives from Rabun Architects of Atlanta; and Matthews Design Group presented architectural drawings and site plans, and answered questions at a meeting on Vilano Beach Main Street on July 21, attended by Vilano residents who belong to the North Shores Improvement Association and the North Beach Community Alliance.

“We have monthly meetings and when we hear about upcoming projects, we ask the developers to do a presentation,” said Vivian C. Browning, president of Vilano Beach Main Street. “As a group, we don’t support or support a project.

Browning, a resident of Vilano for 35 years, has been involved with the group since 1997 and helped bring Publix and other outlets in 2012, in addition to updates to downtown Vilano Beach along Vilano. Road, which features improved sidewalks, fountains, benches, and public art.

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“It took us 12 years to get Publix,” Browning said. “We were run down, a devastated area. We have made improvements. We are a destination now.

In fact, five years ago Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced that Main Street in Vilano Beach was named Florida Main Street Community of the Month in March 2016.

“Communities are selected based on their development accomplishments and participation in the Florida Main Street program,” the press release said at the time. “Since its designation 13 years ago [2003], Vilano Beach Main Street’s achievements include $ 42 million in public / private reinvestment, creating a net gain of nine new businesses and a net gain of over 179 new jobs in its Main Street area.

The story of the Magic Beach Motel

The 24-room motel was purchased in 2010 and renovated over several years by Earl and Remy Jensen, who also own the Ocean View Lodge, a 28-room hotel located at 2701 Anahma Drive. The Jensens, residents of Vilano Beach, have similar properties in Atlantic City and Colorado.

“Magic Beach will be sold by December,” Remy Jensen said on August 12. “We have had a lot of positive reviews from guests who have stayed here over the years.”

The Jensens spoke to Jessica Clark of First Coast News on August 12 about the sale of the motel, citing health concerns and travel desires.

The Magic Beach Motel takes its name from its use as the filming location for the 1999 Warner Brothers television series “Safe Harbor,” starring Emmy-winning and Golden Globe-nominated McClanahan Street. Also starring Gregory Harrison, the series was about a sheriff and father of three boys living in Magic Beach, Florida, a fictional town. McClanahan played Harrison’s mother and owned the Magic Beach Motel where they all lived together. The sign, which features rabbits, a hat and neon lighting, was created because the fictitious owner’s husband had been a magician.

The Florida Department of State’s Historic Resources Division recognized the motel in 2013 for its outstanding Florida Main Street rehabilitation project.

Development of Vilano beach

The 50-room Holiday Inn Express opened at the end of July at 150 Vilano Road. Hyatt Place, a 120-room hotel, will open in the fall at 117 Vilano Road.

Existing hotels in the Vilano Beach Town Center / Main Street area include Hampton Inn & Suites (94 rooms), Oceanview Lodge (28 rooms), and Saint Augustine Beach House (16 rooms). Other vacation rentals in the Vilano area include Ocean Sands Inn, Beachcomber Cottages, and VRBO and AirBnB rentals.

In addition, 49 townhouses are planned on a vacant 3-acre lot at the intersection of Loja Street and Vilano Road in downtown Vilano. The residential project, proposed by Dylan Cadwalader and his Vilano Springs development group, is adjacent to the new Hyatt currently under construction and across from the Holiday Inn Express.

Neighborhood opposition

Neighbors in the North Beach area founded the North Beach Community Alliance, a group of local citizens and small businesses, earlier this year to address concerns about a development they believe could negatively impact the city. neighborhood environment and quality of life.

After more than 600 residents signed a petition against an 11,000-square-foot 3-story guesthouse project at the corner of 12th Street and Coast Road, the project was halted.

As of August 18, 690 people have signed a new petition demanding the suspension of permits for commercial and mixed-use developments in downtown Vilano Beach.

Michael Clare-Salzler, a resident of Vilano for 10 years, is part of the North Beach Community Alliance. Clare-Salzer believes there was a deviation from what the Vilano Beach Main Street group had originally planned, which included maintaining a small beach community and including businesses that residents would use.

“The original plan has deviated and now focuses on tourism and tourists. We founded this group to respond to a development that would have had a negative impact on the community, ”explained Clare-Salzer. “We are not against development. We want responsible development in the community. We would like to see a development that will have a positive impact on the county, which will not cause stress to the community.

According to the group, the last feasibility study for the main street of Vilano was completed in 2007. The group believes that infrastructure assessments should be carried out – studies on traffic, utilities and the environment – to determine whether the community can support and maintain large current and proposed projects. .

“We are not asking for things that are out of the ordinary. The citizens are left behind, ”said Clare-Salzer. There is a lack of regulation… I got into this because I live in this neighborhood and because I was concerned about the lack of data. The county receives taxpayer money and that is the motivation. It’s an inherent conflict. What is the county’s vision? What are the county’s goals? County processes need to be aligned.

Breau Alexander is a Vilano Beach resident who moved from Atlanta in 2011. She also joined the North Beach Community Alliance this year.

She said she attended the June meeting on Vilano Beach Main Street and residents were wondering about the Magic Beach Motel after hearing it could be sold.

“The questions have been swept away,” she explained. “A lot of people have moved here and see changes and feel helpless, even longtime residents. We are witnessing an interrupted process that leaves residents behind. Commissioners, developers and residents can all work on the planning. It is a civil way for this to happen. Residents just don’t matter and I find that insulting. That’s why they see this reaction of anger and emotions… finding information was difficult.

For more information on the North Beach Community Alliance, visit

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