Infamous foreclosed Keys condo site now future home of a Marriott boutique hotel

01/10/2014 8:47 AM

01/10/2014 8:52 AM

Earthmovers and other construction equipment are clearing the way for a "boutique hotel" at the old American Outdoors RV Park bayfront lot at mile marker 97.5 in Key Largo.

Developers are seeking "a multitude of approvals" from Monroe County, said Larry Abbo, chief executive officer of Prime Hospitality Group. Prime Hospitality wants to build a 15-building hotel on the 14-acre site. The project also calls for 160 parking spaces, Abbo said.

The hotel will be part of Marriott's boutique Autograph Collection, Abbo said.

Joseph Haberman, manager of Monroe County's Department of Planning and Review, said the Prime group is in the process of going through various building requirements. The property is already zoned to allow hotels, Haberman said.

For the past eight years, the property, with its faded sales sign for a project called Playa Cristal, stood as a monument to a fledgling real estate trend that never got off the ground in the Keys in the mid-2000s, despite a serious and expensive build-up.

Playa Cristal was to be developed by a now-defunct company called Cortex Living Resort, which had several other proposed projects throughout the Keys during that era. Cortex bought American Outdoors RV Park for $28 million in 2005.

The plan was to demolish the 154 RV hookups and build a condo/hotel — where investors bought and rented out rooms —with 92 upscale units. The plans boasted restaurants and a lounge that would take guests back to "Hemingway-era Cuba." Cortex was selling units for between $690,000 to $4 million.

But not enough buyers invested, and the condo/hotel age never materialized despite the gobbling up of dozens of prime waterfront locations Keyswide by ambitious developers at exorbitant prices.

The Playa Cristal property became tangled in a $40 million foreclosure lawsuit in 2009, according to the Miami Herald.

Monroe County Property Appraisers records show Key Largo Hospitality Trust, a Prime Group subsidiary, bought the property for $7.3 million in November 2012.

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