BY MARCY SHORTUSE – The Gasparilla Inn & Club has been slowly introducing their new plans for the property where the Gasparilla Inn Beach Club and the dog park are now, and now the plans are public. The plans for the first phase of the project were filed with the county several weeks ago, and they are now making the rounds of all county staff. The new plan is proposed to go in front of the Boca Grande Historic Preservation Board in December.
The primary theme for the new project focuses on how to best blend the new buildings in with the old; adding new family-friendly, low-density cottages; the addition of new and improved fitness amenities; and much, much more parking.
According to Tina Ekblad, a planning partner for Morris Depew, the current site where the Beach Club is located is called the “south parcel,” while the land north of 5th Street over to 7th Street is called the “north parcel.” Plans for the north parcel were the ones submitted, and the ones up for review.
The current Beach Club will be remodeled, but will remain essentially the same. The Inn Adventures building which currently stands in the south end of the Beach Club parking lot will be relocated to the new north parcel, which will increase the parking capacity for the main building. The public parking lot to the north of the current Beach Club will remain the same.
The current tennis pro shop on 5th Street will be moved to make way for the new entry point into what could be considered a “roundabout.” There will be one-way traffic into the new parcel and one-way traffic out, onto 7th Street.
Along with the removal of the pro shop from its current location, one of the tennis courts will temporarily taken out to make way for new construction. Eventually there will be seven tennis courts at the site again, as well as the addition of a pickle ball court. The new pro shop location will be relocated further back from the road, and bleacher seating will be installed along the south end of the building by several of the courts.
Adjacent to that to the north there will be a new fitness center, a new yoga room and meditation garden, and a new fitness pool. The current lap pool will remain where it is. The plan shows a considerable increase in square footage for all of the fitness-related facilities.
Upon first entering the new parcel from 5th Street and looking toward the Gulf you will see the new Inn Adventures building (where paddleboards and golf carts are rented) and the rooftops of the new cottages that will be located beachside. You will see tennis courts to your left and your right, as well as the pro shop and the new fitness facilities.
Driving further into the new parcel there will be a roundabout surrounded parking for vehicles and golf carts.
“We don’t expect the parking demand to reach a point during day-to-day use where we would be parking on Gasparilla Road or in the median,” Ekblad said. “Between the two parcels there will be more than ample parking for member and guest needs without there being any overflow outside the parcels.”
If you head left you will find the cottages – two four-bedroom structures (they will be called the “Gulf Cottages) and the other five two-and-three-bedroom cottages. This assembly of cottages will have their own pool and cabana, and they are all offset from one another with green space in between to ensure privacy.
All of the units are single rentals, meaning there will be no lock-off units (in order to keep the density down).
Each cottage will also have their own parking – three spaces each for the Sharp homes and two spaces each for the other cottages.
The only exit from the new parcel will be on 7th Street. No entry will be allowed from that location with an allowance for emergency vehicles.
The sea wall will remain separating the cottages from the beach, and the only beach access points at this time are from the current public access points.
The new area will also be surrounded by walls, which will be concealed by vegetation. Many of the old-growth trees, shrubberies and sea grapes will be relocated instead of cut down from the current sites, so they can be repurposed and incorporated into the new plan.
The current maintenance area that exists to the east of where the dog park is now will be smaller, and will be moved to the corner of the new parcel.
If all goes well and the plans pass through the county, construction on the new plan is not scheduled to begin until early summer of 2019.
Talk of a new island dog park is in the works with county representatives. See more from our secret source in the above article.
More information will be made available in the coming months in the Boca Beacon, at the Boca Grande Historic Preservation Board meeting and in our January/February 2019 edition of Gasparilla Magazine.