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Longboat Key Tuesday, May 15, 2018 2 months ago

Contractors survey Colony site for possible repairs

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Developer Chuck Whittall and a representative for beachfront owners, Manfred Welfonder, disagree about the outcome of the survey, both saying that contractors gave them assurance about their positions.
by: Bret Hauff Staff Writer

Unicorp National Developments chief Chuck Whittall met with a former competitor for development of the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort property on Tuesday at the site of the former resort to discuss the possible future of beachfront units.

Whittall and his company earlier this year gained approval from the town to redevelop the property at 1620 Gulf of Mexico Drive into a 166-room St. Regis hotel and 78 condominiums. But several obstacles remain, including ownership of the individual Colony units and the break-up of the associated condominium association. Some owners have contended that their condo units can be repaired and renovated. They oppose a fresh-start development and have rejected offers from Whittall to sell.

Before Whittall can proceed with his plan, Unicorp must gain the right to raze everything on the land.

Manfred Welfonder

Manfred Welfonder, who previously proposed a development plan of his own for the property,  said he was acting on behalf of a group of beachfront-unit owners —  including Blake Fleetwood, Ruth Kreindler, Shelly Rabin, Gordon Bratter, Jeff Jagid and Andy Adams, some of whom have challenged the development project in court — to determine whether the beachfront units can be salvaged. Together, the group owns dozens of former Colony units.

Here’s what most who were there on Tuesday, reached by phone, agree on: Welfonder and five contractors — two engineers, two appraisers and a contractor — met with Whittall and his assistant in the morning to walk the site of the former Colony Beach & Tennis Resort. What exactly was discussed is what's unclear.

Whittall said the consultants told him the buildings cannot be saved. When he asked one consultant whether the buildings should be razed, Whittall said his answer was, “oh yeah.”

Welfonder said that his consultants have not made any decisions and at least two of them did not talk to the Orlando-based developer about repairs of the units or the structures themselves. Whittall wrote in an email to town staff that contractors told him that the buildings should be razed. 

“From an engineering standpoint, it can be done,” Welfonder said of repairing the beachfront units. “An engineer says everything can be repaired.”

John McCall, an engineer with McCall and Young Engineering, was one of the contractors that spent the morning with Welfonder and Whittall at the Colony property.

The Lakewood Ranch-based engineer said that he had been contacted by a contractor who Welfonder had connected with about walking the site of the once-iconic resort to see what it would take to repair the beachfront units.

McCall said that anything can be repaired, from an engineering standpoint,  but do the costs to do so support the outcome. 

“I didn’t really see a final position,” McCall said of the interaction.

I’m a Longboat Key Staff Reporter. I write stories about how decisions and events affect the island, its leaders and its citizens. I received a bachelor's degree in journalism from Emerson College, where I wrote for The Boston Globe. Reach me at 941-366-3468 ext. 333.

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