Broward County

Hollywood breaks ground on Margaritaville beach resort

Jimmy Buffett might not have been there in the flesh, but his presence was felt on Hollywood beach Thursday morning.

It was the official groundbreaking for the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort, an 845,000-square-foot island-themed paradise with a 349-room hotel, seven bars and restaurants, retail space and a surf ride.

The soundtrack: Changes in Attitude Changes in Latitude and Margaritaville, blaring from the Bandshell speakers. Stilt walkers made balloon animals and tested people’s basketball-throwing skills.

“This is as fun as a concert,” said attorney Lauren J. Mata, who got into the spirit wearing a fin-shaped balloon hat. “We are really excited about this.”

The project’s developer, Lon Tabatchnick, called it a “new beginning for Hollywood beach.”

It has been a long time coming.

“I couldn’t be happier,” said Hollywood resident Barry Sacharow, who came “appropriately” dressed in a tie-dyed shirt and shorts.

The nearly five-acre site, that last month housed a public parking garage, a parking lot and a playground, is now clear and fenced off as construction workers begin to install the pilings for the new complex. A tall crane sat where the playground used to be.

Renderings of the resort decorate the fence surrounding the construction zone.

“This place never looked so good, even during construction,” Commissioner Patricia Asseff said to the crowd.

The project is expected to be the catalyst for growth for Hollywood Beach. City leaders say surrounding property owners have begun to spruce up their own investments. Mayor Peter Bober said Thursday that Margaritaville will add 500 construction jobs and 350 permanent jobs.

“We are here to celebrate a $147 million investment in Hollywood Beach,” Bober said.

The road to Margaritaville has been bumpy. The city has tried before to get a project going on the prime piece of real-estate but financing and other factors have gotten in the way.

Then in 2010 the commission agreed that Margaritaville was the best fit. But the developers’ original financing plan — to get foreign investment — didn’t work and there were challenges in getting permits. Deadlines passed, and some thought the project wouldn’t happen.

Then Starwood Capital, the group that once financed high-end hotels, including St. Regis, W, Westin, and Sheraton, stepped up and the project was back on track.

Tabatchnick said breaking ground is a testament to all of the hard work and partnerships.