'Bring back the boats'

 

'Bring back the boats'

 

Date: May 5, 2011
by: Robin Roy | City Editor

 
 

It has now been four years since a wrecking ball took down the Quay.

The once-thriving landmark on the bayfront at the western terminus of Fruitville Road was the spot for nightlife in the 1990s.

But now the property’s waterfront is as barren as its land.

One man is hoping that will change soon.

Yacht broker Roy Kaplan has been lobbying to resurrect the boat basin, which includes property owned by the Hyatt Regency hotel and private condo buildings.

“The city should be trying to do something with it,” said Kaplan.

Until the ownership gets straightened out, no one is able to do anything with that property.

Irish developer Paddy Kelly and his Irish American Management Services Ltd. is still the official owner of the Quay property, but, in essence, the Irish government controls the land, because it took over the bank that held the mortgage.

Bob Morris, who is part of a Sarasota development group trying to acquire the property, believes the government will hold onto the property at least for several more months to try to recoup some of its lost value. (See box for the property’s valuation from the last five years.)

Kelly paid $49 million in 2004 for 10-and-a-half acres, of which about a half-acre is submerged land. He planned to build a $1.5 billion hotel and apartment complex, along with an improved boat-docking station.
But the real-estate market soon went south, and the development was stalled.

Kaplan envisions only good things for the downtown economy if the boat basin is revitalized, and he sees the adjacent Hyatt Regency as part of that revitalization.

Currently, the hotel has 32 boat slips, which its guests utilize, but Kaplan believes the Hyatt could improve what it already has.

Kaplan has spoken to Hyatt General Manager Mark Beckers about his idea.

“We would like to see some modification,” Beckers said. “But some neighbors may not like it. We don’t want to disturb them with too much noise.”

Overall, though, the Hyatt general manager said he’s happy with the way his boat slips are used.

“We have plenty of power and Wi-Fi, restrooms and showers available,” he said. “The only thing (we) might add is cable TV.”

In the lead-up to the city election in March, Commissioner-elect Shannon Snyder spoke at length about the need to develop the Quay site, calling it a “major failure” that the highly desirable land has been empty for four years.

“I have high hopes for that property,” Snyder said. “Hopefully, we have someone stepping up soon (to develop it.)”

Morris hopes his group, CMR Bayside Associates, will be the ones stepping up.

The amenities that have been under discussion include a hotel, conference center, retail stores and condos. But a vital part of any development plan, according to Morris, is improving the waterfront.

“The boat basin is a wonderful amenity for the site,” said Morris. “It enhances the entire property.”
Whatever eventually happens with the area, Kaplan hopes it happens soon, if not only to help the local economy.

“If you were to put 20 boats in there, those are people who will go downtown to eat and shop,” he said. “Looking at it now, it’s a sad, sad situation.”

Rise and fall
The changing values of the former Quay property.
Year    Just market value
2006    $33,719,200
2007    $56,624,600
2008    $51,274,200
2009    $48,936,100
2010    $38,619,700

Contact Robin Roy at rroy@yourobserver.com.

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