The Southernmost Hotel Col-lection recently unveiled an 80-room oceanfront expansion on the site of the former Atlantic Shores Resort.
The company, owned by a group of investors including managing partners Dale Rands and Stuart Kaufman, purchased the adjacent property and tore down the hotel to make room for expansion, which began in October 2007.
"We just thought it was an excellent time in the marketplace to purchase the Atlantic [Shores] to expand our property," General Manager Matt Babich said of the acquisition.
The hotel now boasts 123 rooms, all of which offer views of the Atlantic Ocean, including three penthouses. Each of the 80 new rooms features a nautical theme designed to make guests feel like a passenger on a yacht. The fresh look also features new landscaping, including more than 80 palms in different varieties, gumbo limbo trees and exotic plants. Much of the landscaping was salvaged from the Atlantic Shores property and was nurtured in Homestead until it could be replanted in Key West.
The owners removed a blacktop parking lot and added tropical vegetation, a grassy walkway and palm trees equipped with swinging hammocks for the ultimate afternoon nap.
The ground-level rooms, which once had an obstructed view of the Atlantic Ocean due to the old parking lot, now offer a full view and garden pathway leading directly to the new poolside tiki bar with a mirror reflecting the ocean.
"This will be a great benefit to our destination for years because of its uniqueness," Babich said.
The new rooms opened earlier this month, but there are a few construction workers and ladders lingering on the property. Final landscaping touches, such as more grass and flowers and finishing off the penthouses on the inside, are currently being completed.
After the Dec. 1 opening, the new rooms were at 48 percent occupancy and are expected to be at more than 60 percent in the coming weeks, Babich said. The three-month forecast for January, February and March is not as strong as last year, as most of the other lodging properties in town. But Babich is hopeful the expansion will help the hotel compete for business.
"It is a fabulous new product that will add excitement to our properties and a new resort experience for our guests and Key West as a destination," he said.
Winter rates range from about $249 for standard rooms to $475 for the oceanfront penthouses.
Along with new amenities such as turn-down service, Wi-Fi, yoga on the beach and massage services, guests will be treated to veteran complimentary extras such as parking, towels and chaise lounges. Guests also have access to three pools, including a junior-sized Olympic pool, as well as another poolside bar.
"We offer a true Key West experience when you stay here," Sales Manager Lisa Malcolm said.
A new fitness center is slated to open in January, featuring water aerobics, personal training, Key West power walks, water volleyball, bocce on the beach, badminton, horseshoes and croquet.
From the intimate sandy beaches to full food and beverage service, the expanded property also will be available for weddings, private parties and oceanfront meeting spaces.
"It's all about our guests," said Carrie Babich, director of sales and marketing.
Southernmost on the Beach also has gone green, adding key cards that help conserve energy by activating the lights when waved over the sensor. Southernmost Hotel Collection has been recognized by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as the largest independently owned Green Lodge in the Florida Keys.
"We're not a condo hotel," Matthew Babich emphasized. "We're keeping everything exclusive for our guests."
The Old Town location helps enable guests to experience Key West's nearby attractions. And guests and locals still can dine at the Southernmost Beach Café and take advantage of the December and January special rates.
"Our guests are getting a great experience at great value," Malcolm said.
The Southernmost Hotel Collec-tion also includes the nearby Southernmost Hotel, Le Mer Hotel and Dewey House.