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Longboat Key Thursday, Mar. 3, 2016 5 years ago

Colony board approves redevelopment plan

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Unicorp is hoping to convince the Four Seasons hotel chain to operate its planned five-star hotel at the Colony.
by: Kevin McQuaid Commercial Real Estate Editor

In a move that could end a fractious stalemate dating back to 2010, the board of the homeowner’s association at the shuttered Colony Beach & Tennis Resort on Wednesday voted unanimously to work with an Orlando developer to try and re-open the Longboat Key resort.

The homeowner group’s 9-0 vote paves the way for further negotiations with Orlando-based Unicorp National Developments Inc., which has been hoping to revamp the Colony for more than two years.

The two sides hope to hammer out a development agreement within the next four months that would then be presented to the Colony’s unit owners for a vote.

If that vote occurs and the agreement is approved, a plan to redevelop the Colony with a 180-room luxury hotel and an equal number of upscale condominiums could be presented to Longboat Key officials later this year.

“We’re hopeful,” says Jay Yablon, president of the Colony’s homeowners’ association. “I think we’ve realized we cannot do anything without the other. We’ve put practicality over ideology. It’s our hope that we can begin moving past recent history and get together.”

The Colony, an 18-acre, beachfront resort that contains 237 condo hotel units and was once considered among the top tennis-centric vacation destinations nationwide, has been closed since 2010. Homeowners and a former management company led by the Klauber family tussled over millions of dollars in deferred maintenance costs, which led to the closure.

In the years since, the Colony has become a shell of itself, with derelict grounds, building code violations and seemingly endless rounds of litigation.

“We’re very excited by the news on how the board voted,” says Chuck Whittall, Unicorp’s president. “Hopefully now the full ownership will vote in favor of what we think is a very good proposal for all sides. If that occurs, there could finally be an end to all of this.”

Whittall says Unicorp is hoping to convince the Four Seasons hotel chain to operate its planned five-star hotel at the Colony.

Both the developer and Yablon say loggerheads were loosened in December, when Whittall made a presentation to Colony homeowners to outline its proposal.

“What broke the ice was that neighborhood meeting,” Whittall says. “They got to know us, they saw that we aren’t bad people and that we want to do good things for the Colony.” 

Unicorp has a master lease that provides it with significant rights to the resort’s amenities and property.

If a development agreement is hashed out and approved between the homeowners and Unicorp, however, it would likely dash other plans that have been floated to resurrect the Colony.

MW Corp., a company headed by Manfred Welfonder, has been hoping to redevelop the Colony with $200 million worth of hotel rooms, retail space and new condos for the past decade.

Last fall, it unveiled a partnership with prestigious Naples developer Lutgert Cos. to revamp the resort with 350 residential units, a 190-seat restaurant and amenities.

“I think we have a good working relationship with Unicorp now,” Yablon says. “We can do business with them.”

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