By DEBBIE FLESSNER
When Sarasota County real estate developer Henry Rodriguez bought the commercial property at 1800 Stickney Point Road in 2016, he knew he had his work cut out for him.
Decades ago, there had been two motels on the site, the Tides Inn Motel and the Sunset Lodge. More recently, another buyer had bought the two Old Florida-style motels, took care of a few renovations and had renamed the property The Elephant Ear Suites.
Rodriguez saw the property and immediately had a vision for it.
“It was an old motel, but not really a typical one with parking out in the front,” he said. “There’s a newer trend, where they take old motels and make them into hipster-type boutique motels, so I wanted to create a place that was tropical and luxurious.”
Rodriguez knows the real estate development business, since he was the developer behind the Wal-Mart Supercenter and original owner of the 41-acre Bay Street Village and Towncenter in Osprey. He has also bought and developed tens of millions of dollars in other commercial and residential real estate projects, most notably a 20-unit property on Gateway Avenue and a 22-unit hotel in Nokomis.
The first couple of things Rodriguez did after purchasing the two and a half acre site on Stickney Point Road for $1.9 million were to rename it the Siesta Key Palms Hotel, and begin renovations to the existing 21 guest rooms.
Rodriguez said that when he was designing both the interior and exterior spaces of the resort, he kept in mind the types of places he, himself, would want to stay.
“I travel all over the world, and I’m a picky traveler,” he said. “I wanted to create a higher end experience for the guests.”
At the end of last year, Rodriguez added six more units and incorporated more parking spaces. His property now has 13 guestrooms, eight 380 square-foot suites and six 470 square-foot villas. All are one-bedroom units, and each has a fully stocked kitchen or kitchenette with granite countertop, a flat screen television, a safe and a private courtyard in the back.
The units have been renovated top to bottom, with secure doors and locks, hurricane-resistant windows and all new paint and décor. And the larger villa units even have hammocks in their private courtyards, for the ultimate relaxation.
Since visitors to the Siesta Key area are typically looking to take advantage of the beauty outside, Rodriguez has transformed his property into a tropical oasis. There’s one lovely, resort-style pool, with tiki huts and comfortable seating, and another “adults-only” pool on the other side of the property. Plus, there are numerous areas with hammocks set up in the sand under shady trees, for afternoon naps or just to read a book.
There’s even a sandy “Chill Zone” near the villas for adults to relax in comfortable seating by the fire pit.
With the assistance of his general manager, Bob Gores, his marketing manager/front desk clerk Priscilla Rosario and a small staff, Rodriguez ensures that the Siesta Key Palms Hotel has all the comforts of home for his guests, even if it is a tropical getaway.
“We have a laundry located on the property, plus heated pools, a gas grill and a screened-in community room,” he said. “Plus, we’re just a short walk from the beach and have free bicycle rentals.”
Having just received approval from Sarasota County to add 20 more units to his property, Rodriguez has clear goals for where he wants to take it in the future. He’d like to add some additional waterfall features and tiki torches, as well as a jacuzzi. And once he obtains his full liquor license, he plans to perhaps open a small bar in one of the tiki huts by the pool.
He also plans to build a welcoming entrance from the new parking lot, but that is already in progress.
With the work (and the $800,000 in renovations) Rodriquez has put into the property, The Siesta Key Palms continues to receive local and national accolades. In 2017, it earned a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor and currently ranks as the Number 2 hotel out of 51 in Sarasota, as 75 percent of the website’s reviewers gave it the highest rating possible. And since the completion of renovations, the hotel has been featured twice on the Today Show and in “Travel + Leisure” and “Vogue” Magazines.
Above all, Rodriguez says that he’s trying to create a high-end happening for his guests, and wants the result of his “passion project” to be absolutely perfect.
“We are the top-rated, non-branded hotel out of 250 hotels in Sarasota,” he said. “There is no place on or off the Key that has the luxuries that we have here. It’s all about the experience we are creating for our guests.”
The Siesta Key Palms Hotel is located at 1800 Stickney Point Road, just on the east side of the Stickney Point Bridge. For more information, or to make a reservation, call 941-786-4778 or visit the website at www.siestakeypalmshotel.com.