LIDO KEY — Plans to transform the aging Sandcastle Resort at Lido Beach — long known as the Helmsley Sandcastle — into a luxury contemporary resort were rubber-stamped by the Sarasota City Commission this week.
The commission unanimously approved plans and a rezoning request to redevelop the 176-room hotel, built in 1953, into a flashy four- or five-star, 304-room resort spanning two curved towers that will be eight and nine stories tall. The amenities are expected to include valet parking, a 10,000-square-foot ballroom, 5,000-square-foot junior ballroom, 7,000 square feet of meeting space, a spa, private pool with cabanas and a restaurant and bar that will be open to the public.
The planned resort, which will keep the same moniker, will replace its aging and significantly smaller predecessor on the roughly six-acre beachside site on Ben Franklin Drive near Lido’s south end. Built in 1953 and expanded in the ’60s, the resort is one of the oldest beachfront hotels in Southwest Florida.
It was time for a major facelift, project representatives said.
“This is the only remaining obsolete hotel of this magnitude on Lido Beach,” said John Patterson, a lawyer representing the project. “It’s desperately in need of being torn down and starting over again.”
The existing hotel has the unique distinction of having once been owned by a multimillionaire Maltese dog named “Trouble,” who was bequeathed the hotel by his and the resort’s longtime owners, New York billionaires Harry and Leona Helmsley. But after the Helmsleys and eventually “Trouble” died, it briefly appeared the hotel would be sold and turned into luxury condominiums, much to the chagrin of local tourism officials who wanted one of the few remaining beachfront hotels to stay.
That became reality when a Delray Beach hotel group that also owned the Longboat Key Club purchased the property in early 2014 for $27.4 million, according to property records. They then announced the hotel would remain, rebranded as the Sandcastle Resort at Lido Beach.
“My vision for the Sandcastle is to be an exciting, unique, fresh and alluring experience, both for guests and residents of the area,” said architect James Wurst of Coral Gables-based Nichols Brosch Wurst Wolfe & Associates.
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