COCOA BEACH, Fla. – Plagued by “aging and deteriorating buildings, amenities and infrastructure,” the International Palms Resort and Conference Center generated far more police calls than any Cocoa Beach resort from 2016-19, city records show.
Now, plans are advancing to raze International Palms and replace it with a $300 million, four-star-plus Westin-branded oceanfront resort with 502 rooms, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.
“They say a rising tide raises all boats,” the developer, Driftwood Capital CEO Carlos Rodriguez Sr., told the Cocoa Beach City Commission on March 18.
“And quite frankly, when you are getting rid of the ugly duck that basically charges very little for its rooms — and you’re replacing it (with) a hotel that generates $300-$350 room nights — all the other hotels in the area will be able to raise rates,” Rodriguez said.
The City Commission unanimously approved first reading of the project’s development agreement and rezoning. Commissioners will consider the ordinance’s second, final reading during Thursday’s meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
Driftwood Capital bought International Palms for $23 million in October 2016. If commissioners approve the ordinance Thursday, Rodriguez said he hopes to demolish the aging 16-acre complex at 1300 N. Atlantic Ave. by year’s end.
The target Westin opening date: early 2024.
Driftwood Capital is a Coral Gables private firm that owns Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront and Crowne Plaza Melbourne Oceanfront in unincorporated Indialantic, along with a nationwide portfolio of hotels.
Rodriguez said the Cocoa Beach Westin will be a resort destination where visitors spend “many days.” Plans call for:
- The largest conference center in Brevard County.
- Tennis, bocce ball, shuffleboard, basketball and pickleball courts.
- A deep-water wave pool for surfers.
- Topgolf Swing Suites.
- A resort pool with cabanas and a kiddie pool.
- A day spa and salon.
The Westin redevelopment project has involved four years of extensive City Hall negotiations, said Randy Stevenson, building department and development services director.
“This particular project represents probably the largest redevelopment project in Cocoa Beach in my memory,” Stevenson said.
International Palms has 11 buildings that were constructed during phases in 1963-64 and 1978-79, with internal renovations added in 2004. The hotel has 502 rooms, more than any competitor on the Space Coast.
From September 2016 to September 2019, Cocoa Beach police received 2,155 calls at the property — “many of them drug-related, and far in excess of any other resort area in the city,” a City Commission easement ordinance said.
Nick Miller, a Kimley-Horn & Associates engineer, told commissioners nearly 50% of the International Palms site is covered with impervious material. This sends “significant” polluted stormwater runoff into the State Road A1A drainage system and, ultimately, the Indian River Lagoon.
Miller said the Westin project will decrease impervious surfaces by 22% and incorporate an underground stormwater retention system.
Rodriguez said the project will incorporate today’s public beach-access easement that extends across the property. This easement will serve as a landscaped “central spine,” leading past a coffee shop, a diner, a beach club and a gelato shop.
Representatives of the nearby Marlin Condominiums and Sandcastles Condominiums asked commissioners to be kept in the loop regarding plans on demolition, construction, a proposed loading dock off Tulip Avenue, and other items.
Commissioner Skip Williams and Stevenson said the Westin project still has to go through the building permit process, and many details will be resolved later.