DAYTONA BEACH— Get ready to rock, Daytona Beach.
A Hard Rock hotel and café are coming to the oceanfront, due to open in 2016 on a sandy 10-acre expanse on State Road A1A just south of SunSplash Park.
Plans call for a 375,000-square-foot development that will include 250 hotel rooms, two rock star suites, 100 condo units, 28,000 square feet of ballroom and banquet space, a spa, a shop filled with Hard Rock merchandise and a studio where guests will be able to jam on Fender guitars and record music they can take home.
Locating on a stretch of A1A that's long been home to mom and pop motels and small retail shops, local leaders see a new day coming for the city, which has been battling shuttered hotels, storefront vacancies and blight on the beachside for years.
"It's really changed the game, the whole playing field," said City Manager Jim Chisholm. "It's like going from junior high to a major league team."
Chisholm and other city leaders see the new Hard Rock hotel, which will be the fourth in Florida, as a bookend to a Russian developer's condo hotel project planning to break ground this summer on the north end of A1A. There are high hopes that together the two mega-developments can pull in a host of new business ventures and make the Ocean Center a player for large conventions.
"I think it'll have a significant impact on everything from Silver Beach to Seabreeze," said Deputy City Manager Paul McKitrick.
If all goes as hoped, construction will start on the $100 million-plus project by the end of the year and the Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach will welcome its first guest in early 2016, timed to the Daytona 500.
Jeff Hentz, the Daytona Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau's president and chief executive officer, was bursting with excitement when he was told the Hard Rock was moving into the Daytona Beach neighborhood.
"You're kidding me? Oh, my God. This is great," Hentz said. "This is tremendous to bring a major brand to our destination. I am thrilled. Wow."
The hotel and restaurant complex will give Daytona Beach a much-needed year-round draw that will help put the city on the tourism map — in the United States and abroad.
"You couldn't ask for a better partner," Hentz said. "We'll leverage it to the hilt."
Hard Rock International's decision to locate one of its hotel and restaurant complexes on the World's Most Famous Beach now puts Daytona Beach in the company of Chicago, Las Vegas, Bali, Cancun, Singapore and other internationally known cities that are among the chosen spots for the hotels and restaurants known for their authentic rock star memorabilia placed around the properties.
The announcement is the culmination of four years of hotel shopping by Toronto-based developer/investor Bayshore Capital Inc. After the Canadian company bought the beachside land in 2009, its top officials considered various hotel chains and even worked with NASCAR on an idea to create a NASCAR brand hotel that didn't come to fruition.
Hard Rock turned out to be the best fit, said Henry Wolfond, Bayshore's chairman and CEO.
"The gorgeous beach, hot cars, bikes, great hospitality and the sound of rock 'n' roll music together will celebrate Daytona Beach's resurgence," Wolfond said. "We feel privileged to be a part of this development and look forward to its opening around the 2016 Daytona 500."
Speaking from Europe in a phone interview Thursday evening, Wolfond said the project is in the early stages and the company will be able to share more details in a few weeks.
A site plan has not been submitted yet to city officials, and city commissioners will be asked to consider rezoning the property to a planned unit development that will free Bayshore and Hard Rock to be creative with their plans.
The city and county will also be partnering with Bayshore by providing community redevelopment area dollars — possibly around $3 million — as well as utility fund contributions to expand the water and sewer pipe system on the site, put power lines underground, improve the beach approach on the property and build expanded sidewalks.
Bayshore has also purchased a thin strip of commercial property on the west side of A1A across from the hotel site, but there are no immediate plans for that property.
The project will most likely have a second phase in the future that would include more hotel rooms. While Hard Rock does have casinos at some of its locations, including in Tampa and Hollywood, Wolfond said there are no plans to do that with his company's property.
There will be live music in the Hard Rock café on site, but Wolfond said he still needs to talk to city officials to determine if they would allow live music in an outdoor area of the property overlooking the ocean.
It hasn't been determined yet if there will be a Hard Rock Live concert building on site like the one in Orlando near the Hard Rock hotel there, he said.
Bayshore will retain ownership of the land and Hard Rock will manage it, he said.
Hard Rock International has 179 venues in 57 countries, including 141 cafes, 18 hotels and eight casinos. HRI's parent company is the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which purchased the company in late 2006.
"It has awesome potential," Wolfond said. "I've seen pictures of the area from the 30s and 40s and saw what it once was."
Chisholm said the city's resurgence is picking up serious steam. A "very upscale" hotel chain is checking out the city, and a total of nine Daytona beachside hotels are in the process of being built, re-flagged and reconditioned, he said.
"We're building a real backbone for the tourism industry on the beach," he said.
George Mirabal, the interim president of the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce and a longtime local business community leader, said he sees the biggest things happening on the beachside since the Ocean Walk Shoppes were built in the 1990s.
"It's because a lot of people here just don't give up," Mirabal said.
Local leaders say Daytona Beach appears to be in the beginning of a renaissance with the Russian investors planning to build their condo hotel near the Ocean Center, the Speedway hoping to tackle a $250-million-plus overhaul of its grandstands and surrounding property, Joe's Crab Shack locating on the Daytona Beach Pier, and Cici and Hyatt Brown donating about $15 million to fund a new art museum that will have a world-renowned collection of Florida paintings.
Almost $1 billion in new investment is headed toward Daytona, Chisholm said.
"We have developed such significant momentum with Daytona Beach," said City Commissioner Carl Lentz. "I think this is a time we'll all look back on and say we were there. I think this is the turning point for the city."