Developer pulls out of the deal to buy motel and develop resort in Vilano Beach. Much of the community is relieved but also wants to help the motel owners.

VILANO BEACH, Florida — A proposed resort in Vilano Beach just got nixed. It’s a loss for the developer. It’s seemingly a win for the community who did not want it, but what about the mom-and-pop owners of the vintage motel that the developer is no longer going to buy?

They have to re-open and fast.

Earl and Remy Jensen own the retro-looking Magic Beach Motel. On Monday, there were doing something they didn’t expect to be doing: Readying their vintage motel to be back in business.

He and his wife learned last week that Key International, a Miami-based developer that was in the process of buying the motel, pulled out of the deal.

Jensen said the short-notice left him and his wife with the task of getting the small motel ready for guests again. 

The Jensens did not want to go on camera Monday, saying they did not have enough time. Earl could be seen making repairs and putting up holiday decorations. Maids cleaned the rooms. 

In August, they were happy to be selling, retiring and caring for health issues. At the time, Remy Jensen told First Coast News, “We’re older now. It’s kind of hard to keep up with it.”

This summer, the community was not happy to hear about the developer’s plans to take the wrecking ball to the neon-lighted gem and build a much bigger resort on the property.

The motel, with it’s pastel-color scheme and flamingos on the walls, is considered an icon in the small beach community. So neighbors spoke out at commission meetings with concerns about size of the plans not gelling with Vilano’s quaint and quirky atmosphere.

“I told them, ‘We don’t want Vilano Main Street becoming Anywhere, USA!'” Sally O’Hara said.

O’Hara has lived in St. Johns County for decades and is also a leader of the Florida Downtown Association. She and others also provided enough evidence to convince a county board to designate the motel as culturally significant last week. That means it’s tougher to demolish.

“There will have to be reviews gone through,” Historic preservation expert Leslee Keys said.

So with a no-vote on the project from county leaders, as well as the cultural designation, the developer pulled out at the last minute. 

The Jensens told First Coast News they were shocked and disappointed. However, many people were relieved.

This situation with the Magic Beach Motel has prompted some peole who live nearby to look at other spots in Vilano Beach — such as the former Casa Benedetto’s building — and wonder if these places should also be deemed historic or culturally significant.

“We have a number of historic properties that need protecting,” O’Hara said.

As for the motel owners, they still would like to sell. O’Hara said the community wants to help them, given the unexpected situation the Jensens are in. 

“We’ll try in every way to rally ‘round the troops to help them figure out, number one, if they want to do something different with the property, how to do it in a historically correct way,” O’Hara said. “And we’ll seek investors and help them sell.”

But for now, the Jensens need guests for a vintage motel they did not expect to be running again.