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Boutique resort opens at Siesta gateway - Siesta Key Palms Hotel

New owner has given 1950s building a complete facelift

Siesta Key Palms

21-room Siesta Key Palms Hotel, a boutique style resort with a five-star attitude

Henry Rodriguez has taken motel more than a half-century old at the gateway to Siesta Key and spun it into a luxury, boutique resort.

It's an Old Florida environment — without feeling so old.

The Elephant Ear Suites at 1800 Stickney Point Road, just east of the bridge to Siesta Key, has gotten a complete facelift since Rodriguez bought the 21-unit property for about $2 million this spring.

The 1950s building looks nothing like the drive-up-to-the-room-style motel that was there this time last year.

The three-building, two-pool complex now known as the Siesta Key Palms Resort has been splashed with bright, welcoming colors, hammocks and lounge chairs reminiscent of boutique resorts in Key West, Miami Beach, and even Tahiti.

“They're boutique resorts because they don't sell hotel rooms, they're creating experiences,” Rodriguez said. “So what we did, we said, 'How can we create an experience where they feel like they went back in time?' ”

And it's not just a new coat of paint. It's an investment of more than an $800,000.

His team gutted the bathrooms, pulled up the floors, tore down the old wallpaper and installed new air conditioners, plumbing, and electrical work. Rodriguez has brought in new Tommy Bahama furniture and given each unit a kitchenette.

Rodriguez also has decked out the roughly 1.7-acre site with tropical landscaping and redeveloped the old parking lot into private, courtyard-style patios. These units have their own sets of outdoor furniture, a fountain and are garnished with tropical plants.

“They want something with character, so that's what I'm investing in,” Rodriguez said. “It's Old Florida, and I love it.”

A welcome addition

The remodeled resort is a welcome addition to the Sarasota County hotel market, said Lynn Hobeck Bates, communications manager for Visit Sarasota County.

The Siesta Key Palms Resort is bright and welcoming in itself, but it's also encouraging to see developers preserving what already is available in the area.

“It shows a commitment to our heritage,” Hobeck Bates said. “This particular investment gives our visitors another great option for staying in Sarasota.”

The property will operate with a five-star attitude, Rodriguez said. Once it's up in running in its entirety, the courtyard rooms and two-bedroom suites in the season will go for about $400 and $600 a night, respectively.

The resort had its soft opening the first week of July and opened 13 of the rooms to the public. The remaining eight are expected to open Friday, and bookings are already strong, he said. 

He's picked out plants that can grow tall enough to block out the nearby neighbors, and he's designated one of the pools for private swim parties or as a 21-and-older swimming area. The pool deck and hotel grounds have pockets of the sugary, white Siesta Key-style sand to give it a beachy feel.

He's already got a spot picked out on the property for a massage therapist to set up shop and an agreement is in the works with a nearby restaurant to provide room service to guests. The property doesn't have a kitchen onsite, but he has enough space to offer breakfast to guests.

Making memories

Rodriguez, 53, has a long history in commercial development, but this project isn't so much about building as it is about creating an experience.

“I'm at an age right now where I want to do what I'm passionate about versus what makes money,” Rodriguez said. “When I was in my 30s, I was about building, and what I'm doing now is living out passion, and I want to make memories for people.”

Trish McGetrick, the business marketing director for Stonewood Grill and Tavern, stumbled into the property in what she called a “happy accident” while browsing hotels.com. She was one of the first guests to stay at the site. 

She was looking for accommodations close to the restaurant chain's Sarasota location and was hoping to stay somewhere locally owned. Even in its infancy, the property more than exceeded her expectations. It didn't smell like an old hotel, and it didn't feel one either, she said.

“He's really just brought it back to life,” McGetrick said.

She had brought her daughter along for the trip, and they'd only planned to stay one evening.

But they were enjoying themselves so much that they signed on for another day.

“You know when they redo older buildings, and they look nice, but they still look like older buildings,” McGetrick said. “He did such a nice job that it didn't feel like that.

“It felt like I was in the Keys or something. It really did.”

Herald Tribune July 14, 2016