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Condos strive to redefine luxury

The former site of the historic Ocean View Memorial Hospital is about to be transformed into a lavish, Baroque-style condominium development.

The Riviera will offer 116 large units on seven and half acres in a residential resort that will not allow rentals of less than one year.

The project is an example of how new construction on the Grand Strand is moving toward larger, permanent units to balance the glut of rental units on the market.

And this property - with condos starting at $800,000 and going up to $2.5 million - is tailored for wealthy baby-boomer buyers looking for a permanent luxury home near the ocean with little upkeep.

The Riviera will offer amenities seen in few previous developments - private cabanas, individually owned garages and private elevators that take owners directly into their units. The rooms have ocean views from the third floor up with a single-family home development between it and the ocean.

The old world design was chosen to give Myrtle Beach an iconic building since locals have mourned the loss of the Ocean Forest Hotel ever since it met its date with a wrecking ball in 1974 and was replaced with condos.

"Myrtle Beach was very proud of that building. We want to put up something that 50 years from now, people will be looking at The Riviera," said Michael King, owner of KingOne Properties, which is handling the resort's sales.

The 7-acre site between 77th and 79th avenues North was home to the area's first hospital between 1958 and 1978 before the Grand Strand Regional Medical Center moved to U.S. 17 Bypass.

The tract has since sat vacant - one of the few remaining sizeable, developable tracts along Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach.

Plans to build condos there five years ago failed.

King said it was too early at that time for The Venice, the development that was to be built on the site. Now, the advent of Grande Dunes and other luxury developments have put Myrtle Beach on the map for wealthy buyers.

Tom Maeser, market analyst and president of the Fortune Academy of Real Estate, said the market is right for an off-ocean permanent homeowner luxury resort.

"The market has indeed changed. I think their timing is now probably pretty good," Maeser said.

King said he is seeing so much demand for The Riviera that he will hold a drawing on Oct. 14 where buyers' numbers will be pulled from a hopper to pick their unit.

"We wouldn't have done the drawing, but we had so much interest," he said.

The Riviera keeps the same crescent shaped design as The Venice, but will hold only 114 units with the middle part of the building reaching 140 feet.

Other projects have put up to 400 units on seven acres, but architects for The Riviera said they wanted to retain green space to keep a luxurious feel.

The resort will have formal gardens, singing fountains, two acres of pools, and live oaks will be left throughout the property.

"We worked to mesh a resort feel with formal gardens. It's nice to work with a site that has mature vegetation on it like this one," said Brent Schulz, architect for LandArt Co.

Construction begins in January with completion scheduled for the third quarter of 2008, King said.

The Riviera

Between 77th and 79th avenues North, west of Ocean Boulevard

116 units

Private cabanas, garages and elevators

1,800 square feet to 4,962 square feet

Prices range between $800,000 and $2.5 million