Neighbors of $192M Daytona Beach project balk at 3-year extension request

Article Courtesy of  Daytona Beach News-Journal

By Jim Abbot

Published December 19, 2019

Daytona Beach residents and business owners in the neighbors near the construction site of the $192 million Protogroup hotel-condominium project react to the developer’s request for a three-year extension for completion of the South Tower.

DAYTONA BEACH — For residents and business owners in neighborhoods nearby the $192 million Protogroup hotel-condominium project, a request by the developer for a three-year extension to complete the unfinished South Tower is generally unwelcome news.


“I’m very disappointed,” said Tom Bolc, 68, who has lived with his wife in the Seabreeze Boulevard residential neighborhood for 25 years, most recently on Peninsula Drive. He has followed the project’s progress since Palm Coast-based Protogroup bought the property in 2012.

“Contrast that to other cities, like Miami, where you have large development projects, tall buildings, being constructed in a reasonable time frame,” Bolc said. “Not seven years.”

Bolc and other residents can share their opinions at a required neighborhood meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the possible extension and other changes contained in the proposed “Third Amendment” to the project’s Planned Commercial Development agreement with the city.

Residents aren’t the only ones dissatisfied.

Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry addressed the proposed extension briefly in remarks last week to the monthly board meeting of the Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia County.

“I’m not very happy with that,” Henry said. “In fact, I’m a little bit disgusted.”

Traffic waits at the intersection of State Road A1A and Oakridge Boulevard as construction continues on the Protogroup hotel-condominium project. The developer is seeking a three-year extensionto complete the project's 27-story South Tower.


At the same time, he acknowledged the importance of finishing the project, the biggest and most expensive development in the city’s history.

“We want to see this happen,” Henry said. “That has to be open. That’s a gateway to our beach.”

The gathering will be held in the project’s parking garage at 501 N. Atlantic Ave., according to a letter to neighborhood residents from Rob Merrell, an attorney with Cobb Cole who represents the developer.

The site of the meeting, selected by the developer, also has sparked criticism from neighborhood residents, who consider it a less than adequate setting to discuss the issue.

“Are there any lights in that parking garage?” asked Bolc, adding that he would be more likely to attend if the meeting were indoors. “In the darkness and possible rain, I don’t know if I’m going to make it. I think it sends a clear message: ‘We’re not interested in hearing from very many of you.’”

That also was the reaction from Weegie Kuendig, vice president of Save Our Neighborhoods of Daytona Beach, a Seabreeze neighborhood resident and chair of the city’s Code Enforcement Board.

“My facetious question is, ‘Will we have to pay for parking?’” Kuendig said. “I’m not happy that it (the extension request) is happening at all. They (Protogroup) have been given every opportunity, given so many changes from our code.

“Now they’re asking for even more changes again and we don’t know what the reasons for those changes are,” Kuendig said. “It indicates to me that there isn’t much done inside the building yet.”

Her concerns about darkness go beyond the meeting site, she said.

“Nobody really knows what’s going on with the project,” she said. “So everybody feels like they’re in the dark and that’s not a good thing.”

About the meeting

Alexey Lysich, the Russian-born vice president of Protogroup, apparently won’t be in attendance to help shed light on the progress.

Lysich didn’t respond to The News-Journal’s inquiry about whether he would attend. Craig Stephen Greene, president of Gryffin Construction, referred that same question to Lysich.

Reached by email, Merrell said that he would be at the meeting to represent the developer, accompanied by his paralegal Debi LaCroix.

“I’ll let you know if anyone else plans to be there with me,” Merrell said.

As for the meeting place, it was selected by the developer, based on requirements in the city’s Land Development Code, said Susan Cerbone, city spokeswoman. The code requires such meetings to take place at a site within the city that is “convenient and accessible” to neighbors in close proximity to the project, Cerbone said.

To meet the requirements of the developer’s current agreement with the city, construction of the project’s 27-story South Tower is supposed to be “substantially complete” by Jan. 28, 2020. Yet, it still appears that substantial work remains to be done on the south tower.

Protogroup has turned down News-Journal requests to tour the site.

The new proposed agreement with the city, which Merrell prepared, would extend the latest deadline three additional years from its eventual effective date, meaning the south tower would not be completed until 2023. Construction on the project began in 2017.

“I don’t even know why they built it,” said Vera Cooper, 68, another nearby resident who lives on Butler Boulevard, only a few blocks from the construction site. “They can’t even fill up the hotels they have now. Why not build something that the people on vacation can use? Like an attraction.

“When it rains here what do you do? You sit in your hotel.”

Other changes contained in the proposed new agreement include a reduction from 501 to 459 hotel rooms as well as a corresponding increase from 122 to 164 condominium units in the south tower. The proposed agreement also would extend the deadline for a planned north tower to 2024.

‘What’s the alternative?’

Tuesday’s neighborhood meeting is a required step in getting the city to approve the proposed new agreement, which qualifies as a rezoning of the property, Cerbone said.

Next, the proposed amendment must go to the city’s Redevelopment Board and then the Planning Board for review and recommendation, Cerbone said. At that point, the proposed changes would go for two readings before the City Commission, before commissioners vote on the item, she said.

Cerbone said that the item likely would be presented to the Commission “sometime in the spring.”

For some nearby business owners, the prospect of an extension also was unhappy news.

“It’s terrible, but what’s the alternative?” said Kevin Gelnaw, owner of the landmark Starlite Diner, a block south of the construction site on State Road A1A. “Here I thought we were getting close to the end of the rainbow. This will impact beach businesses at a time when we don’t really need that.”

Gelnaw also was disappointed that the developer wasn’t expected to be at the neighborhood meeting.

“The attorney has a set thing he can say, a couple of stock answers, and I don’t know that it gets to bottom of things, as opposed to hearing from an owner or director of the business,” he said.

At the 87-room Daytona Beach Regency, next door just to the south of the construction site, the outlook is more optimistic, said John Betros, general manager.

“I’m still seeing them out there working,” Betros said of construction crews. “They are covering cars in our parking lot to avoid getting any paint and stucco on them. They are out here every day. What the owner’s relationship is to the city, I don’t know. Boots on the ground, I’m seeing work every day.”