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After cementing an agreement with Cocoa on Tuesday, a developer will move forward with a plan to build a eight-story Hilton hotel in Cocoa Village.

The 107-room hotel at the site of the former city hall on Brevard Avenue in south Cocoa Village will include a parking garage, retail space and a “sky bar” and lounge looking east over the Indian River, developer Jack Brown said. Brown would like to expand parking beyond what the current plan allows for so the hotel can hold conferences,  bringing yet more people and their wallets.

The agreement comes after two years of negotiations with the city over the height of the building along with some resistance from residents who feared for their city’s quaint charm.

“I was like a professor, trying to teach the city what this hotel was going to do,” Brown said.

The eight-story hotel plan attracted criticism from some residents who worried such a large development would ruin the small-town character of Cocoa Village. The hotel will sit across the street from Cryderman’s Barbecue and a series of one-story local businesses.

The hotel would pass the city’s former five-story height limit, but an October 2018 zoning text amendment allowed buildings to pass that height with approval of the city. The amendment came after the hotel was proposed, though Brown said it wasn’t drafted specifically for him.

More: Cocoa officials discuss allowing taller buildings, including new high-rise hotel

Aleck Greenwood, a Cocoa Village commercial property owner who has long championed the hotel, said it will attract guests who otherwise would stay in other parts of Brevard or as far away as Orlando. Greenwood said the hotel will result in further economic development of Cocoa. It will turn the city into “a destination, not an afterthought,” he said.

“You will not recognize this city in three years,” Greenwood said. “You’re going to say, where am I?”

That’s the exact fear of residents elsewhere in Brevard. In Cocoa Beach and Satellite Beach, residents have drawn the same battle lines: some say they’ll ruin the character of the towns they grew up in, while others say they will usher the cities into a new, modern era.

In early December, Cocoa Beach approved a variance allowing the developer of planned luxury resort International Palms Resort to build up to 70 feet, far higher than the 45-foot height restriction typically allowed under city regulations.

More: Some people have issues with proposed Cocoa Village hotel – mainly will it fit into the village’s quaint character

Also in December, Satellite Beach amended its city code to allow for the building of an 85-foot-tall complex called “The Vue” featuring a four-star hotel, single family homes and three condominium buildings. The height was approved in the concept plan in 2004; the December meeting changed codes involving building size, the definition of “limited commercial” buildings and more.

In Satellite Beach and Cocoa Beach, the critics of the developments have been in the minority. The final, binding agreement between Cocoa and Brown passed unanimously, and no residents attended to voice concerns.

Cocoa Mayor Jake Williams said the complaints, already coming from a minority, have died down. Residents feared the building would be the first of several high rises.

“They don’t want what they see in Tampa, where there are huge buildings all over the city, ruining the ambiance and making you feel closed in by all these high rises,” Williams said. 

That’s not Williams’ vision either, he said. What he does want to see is a Cocoa with streets that aren’t “dead after 5 or 6 p.m.,” a change that’s already beginning to unfold as restaurants attracting a younger crowd have brought some night life to the city. He also wants the city not to be a “seasonal” destination, but to also attract people year round.

Greenwood said the agreement wouldn’t have been possible without Brown and other city officials that share the goal of developing the city. He and fellow commercial real estate professionals supported the hotel from the start and have long wanted to see similar developments in Cocoa.

“Now they have a voice,” Greenwood said.

Bailey Gallion is the business and development reporter for FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Gallion at bgallion@floridatoday.com or 321-242-3786.

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