Plans for a Margaritaville resort at the former Phillips Beach Plaza property are no longer wasting away.
This week, local attorney Hugh Cropper, who represents the developer of the proposed 13-story amenity-rich hotel, said his clients are now moving full speed ahead on their plans for the parcel between 13th and 14th streets on the Boardwalk.
“[The developers] asked that the application no longer be placed on hold and that it move forward as expeditiously as possible,” Cropper said Monday.
The plans seemed to be moving along swimmingly in the fall, with a tentative completion and opening date set not too far into the future. However, the process came to a quick halt early last month just before the development team was set to go before the Ocean City Council for approval of a request to abandon an alley needed to make the project work.
Cropper said he did not know why his clients put the plans on hold at the time, nor why they decided to revive them this week.
“They made some minor revisions to the project to address … comments to the planning commission,” he said. “Some related to landscape and facade and those types of things.”
The plans call for a 265-room hotel bearing the famous Margaritaville label, 20,000 square feet of upscale retail space, three restaurants, multiple swimming pools, meeting and conference areas, and other attractions on the two former Phillips lots. City staff members expect it will stand out significantly at the confluence of the more historic buildings in southern Ocean City, and newer high-rises to the north.
To make a project of that scope work, the developers need to establish a planned overlay district, or POD, over the proposed development area. The zoning designation will allow for more design flexibility, with room for compromise between the developer and city officials.
To make it happen, though, City Council members must allow the developer to incorporate the 16-foot alley to create a contiguous parcel. The alley, between Baltimore Avenue and the Boardwalk and 13th and 14th streets, is formally known as Washington Lane.
Elected officials have given no indication that the abandonment would be an issue, although members of the planning commission, who are tasked with making a recommendation to the City Council, have expressed some concerns about other aspects of the project.
The concerns involve parking, traffic patterns, and size of the retail area. But now, with some of the concerns addressed, Cropper said the developers are ready to bring it back to the planning commission for a recommendation.
He said he asked to have the project added to the agenda of the commission’s next regular meeting on Feb. 1, but has yet to receive confirmation.
After going to the planning commission, the alley abandonment request will move to the City Council for a vote. If it is approved, the developers will return to the planning commission for site plan approval.
Cropper said that he had a pretty clear timeline for the project’s completion before the recent hiccup, but that he is unsure of when it might come to fruition now.
“I think it’s a little too early for me to predict the timeline,” he said.