EXTREME HOTEL MAKEOVER: Holiday Inn to build companion tower, lazy river

Jordan Swanson
The east building of Holiday Inn will be completely demolished and replaced with a nine-story building and large pool area.

Destin’s resort with the iconic round tower will receive a two-year facelift.

The new design of Holiday Inn On the Beach Destin will rebuild more spacious guest rooms and create a large pool area and lazy river while taking advantage of its Gulf view. This will be the most extensive renovation that the resort has seen in its decades of history.

The resort will close completely on Monday, Sept. 24, and doesn’t plan to reopen until Memorial Day weekend 2013.

“The owner just felt it was time for the building to be updated and freshened up,” said Joseph Farley, general manager at Holiday Inn. “As we looked at our options, we were originally going to demolish everything, but we looked at the historic significance of the round building being one of the first high rises in Destin, if not the first high rise in Destin, and just the iconic value the round building had when it used to have the revolving restaurant.”

Farley said that it was decided that the best approach would be to remodel the building as phase one of the project.

The round building is known as the tower and the rest of Holiday Inn is referred to as the east building.

Farley said the tower opened as the Hawaiii in 1971, and was converted into a Holiday Inn in 1972. The east building was built in 1982.

In the east building, from just past the lobby and dining area all the way to the south will be demolished and removed. The lobby and dining area will be remodeled.

One of the biggest changes will be the outdoor pool area. Once finished, it is expected to have a zero-depth entry pool with a lap pool built into it, a 300-foot lazy river, about 10 private cabanas, and lots of tropical landscaping for “pockets of privacy.” 

There will also be an extensive area outside for daily kids’ activities like magic shows and treasure hunts through the resort’s children’s program, which has become a favorite of family vacationers since it began in 1985.

Farley said that they hope to have the renovations for the round tower and the new outdoor pool area finished Memorial Day weekend in 2013. Renovations on the tower began three weeks ago.

The demolition of the east building will begin in two weeks. The new nine-story tower will start to be built where the existing four-story east building now stands.

“We’ll level that area and then start new construction of that tower hopefully in the fall of 2013,” Farley said. “It won’t be imploded, it will be knocked down just piece by piece,” said Farley. “It will be a stick-by-stick demolition, kind of a gradual process.”

 “The new tower will be about half of the footprint of this building here now (east building), so the majority of the property will involve the new pool,” he added.

By late 2014, everything should be completed if all goes according to plan. The final product of Holiday Inn will house about 225 rooms as opposed to its current 233.

“The new rooms will either face due south to face the water or they’ll face southwest, so they’ll all have a view of the water and the pool,” said Farley, adding that all of the rooms in the new building will be much larger than the typical hotel room.

In addition to appealing to families, the resort also wants to appeal to the adult market to enable more off-season meetings.

“We’re increasing our meeting space, so we’ll be able to go after more meetings like conventions and weddings and different events like that that we just can’t accommodate right now because we don’t have the space to do it,” said Farley.

When asked how much the project is expected to cost, Farley answered, “It’s a lot.”

“It’s an ongoing project, so firm numbers are not something that we are in the position to discuss, but it’s a very sizable investment in a location and in a community that we just feel very strongly about.”

 “It’s been a very popular family destination for the last 20 years and we hope to just make it an even better destination resort for future guests,” Farley said. “It’s an exciting time for us — the end results are going to be fantastic.”