Construction to soon begin on Vilano Beach hotels

Builder calls area one of Florida's 'best kept secrets'

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Construction is slated to begin in January on two new hotels in Vilano Beach, and some residents call it a sign of inevitable growth for the oceanfront community.

Both buildings will be along Vilano Road, right across the street from one another. Facing the north will stand a three-story Florida vernacular-style Holiday Inn Express with 50 rooms. Facing south will be an art deco-style Hyatt Place hotel with 121 rooms, underground parking and a rooftop bar.

The developer, Farid Ashdji, calls the area one of the "best kept secrets in Florida." He originally bought one of the properties in 1990 for the location and laid-back beach environment.

Some residents agree and don't want the extra visitors. Others, like St. Augustine resident Mary McMahon, welcome the new hotels. She recently stayed at the newly opened Embassy Suites in St. Augustine Beach for her wedding anniversary.

"The are really pretty busy all the time," McMahon said. "It is hard to get a hotel room."

Speaking of the Embassy Suites in St. Augustine Beach, it too had mixed reviews.

"I wish it wasn't here, but I wish them the best at the same time because I love this town. I love this place," said Mike Ramia, who lives in St. Augustine Beach. "I hope to see it prosper. I just wish it wasn't growing up so fast."

The Vilano Beach Holiday Inn Express is set to open December 2019. Hyatt Place plans to open its doors July 2020.

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Florida-born multi-media journalist pays special attention to issues in St. Johns County.