Florida Keys News
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
La Concha roof plans await first hurdle, spa planned

Plans to demolish the rooftop bar that tops the iconic La Concha Hotel on Duval Street will go before the city's Planning Board on July 18 for the first vote on the proposal.

Key West's Historic Architectural Review Commission (HARC) heard a presentation from the project's architect Peter Pike in May, but the panel decided to postpone any decision until after the Planning Board rules.

Officials at La Concha, owned by Spottswood Realty and managed by Remington Hospitality, want to replace the bar, which is a 1980s reconstruction of the original watering hole, with a six-room spa.

"Primarily it's a glass structure, a glass box," said Pike, as he presented his designs to HARC. "Blue glass, to blend into the sky."

The rooftop will also have an observation area near the elevator, said Pike, who added that there will be public access to the spa.

The project has drawn objections from several locals, who asked HARC to deny the hotel's request in order to preserve the sunset-watching spot.

"It's the greatest view we have here in town of the sunset," said Billy Hackett, at the HARC meeting. "We really hold this true and dear to us in our hearts, this historic site. It's a place where history is being made currently."

Since this type of project is a "major development plan" under Key West law, it will require the City Commission's blessing before any construction can start.

The item is on the Planning Board's agenda for its 6 p.m. July 18 meeting at Old City Hall, 510 Greene St.

Ending the rooftop bar, called The Top, would arguably end an era for Key West. Even the hotel's management boasts the near 360-degree view of sunset.

"Sunsets are 'the' event at the Top Lounge -- the highest point on the island," Remington's press materials say.

The property is owned by Spottswood Partners II and was most recently valued at $16.5 million, according to the Monroe County Property Appraiser.

While the rooftop bar has been a favorite sunset spot for decades, what's built there now is not old enough to qualify for "historic" status, unlike the original hotel building, which opened in 1926.

An original bar that dated back to the 1950s was replaced in the 1980s, said city staff.

"We're dealing with the 7th floor, the top of La Concha," Pike told HARC. "The existing space at The Top is 4,200 square feet. It was built in the early 1980s."

City staff has found the plans for the spa in line with the guidelines of the historic district.

"The proposed design is a concept that respects the uniqueness of the La Concha building, which was a building never intended to mimic any other structure within the historic district, Enid Torregrosa-Silva, the city's historic preservation planner. "You won't find anything similar in the historic district."

A few HARC members asked Pike for a model of the spa designs as a way of providing a detailed plan.

Rudy Molinet, HARC's chairman, said he wouldn't have approved what Pike presented in May but was optimistic the final plans would fit into the historic district.

"It's too massive for that roof," said Molinet. "This is an iconic building. I personally think you're on the right track."

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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