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Longboat Key Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 1 year ago

Longboat board backs St. Regis sales office

$2 million St. Regis site could be under construction by the fall.
by: Suzanne Elliott Staff Writer

Chuck Whittall is on his way to setting up a temporary sales office on the site of his proposed St. Regis Hotel and Residences. 

Town Commissioners on Monday voted unanimously to grant a change in zoning rules allowing such temporary, pre-construction buildings under a set of specific conditions: 

  • Projects of 8 acres or more
  • Projects of 40 housing units or more.
  • It also requires a signed development order, ordinance or resolution from the town.

Assuming final approval on March 4, the $2 million, 3,000-square-foot modular building could be under construction by the fall. 

“I am very pleased,” said Whittall, president of Unicorp Developments Inc., the developer of the proposed $600 million, 166-room, 78-condominium project where the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort once stood at 1620 Gulf of Mexico Drive.

According to a floor plan of the proposal, the sales office will offer a view of Gulf of Mexico from its rear deck and features a "Wow arrival'' for patrons once through the front double doors. Vignettes of a kitchen, grand room and bathroom would be showcased, in addition to a model of the proposed property and some meeting space, relaxation space and storage. 

Whittall has been pushing for an on-site sales office since last fall for the17.6-acre site.

Asking prices for the 40 proposed condominiums would vary from $4 million to as much as $10 million. Michael Saunders & Company is marketing the St. Regis condominiums. Whittall has said selling 50% to 60% of the units is vital to landing construction financing.

In a letter to Whittall, Michael Saunders, CEO and founder of the real estate company, wrote "it is an expectation of the buyer to have a total experience when making a a buying decision, which can only be had on-site.''

Even though the vote to move the proposal ahead to a final vote was unanimous, there were questions from commissioners. “This is a temporary structure,” Commissioner Randy Clair said. “My concern is if there is a hurricane, could this structure withstand it.”

Whittall assured the commission that the building would be able to withstand a hurricane and would be up to code.

Whittall owns 37 of the 237 of the former  Colony units, though the last building on the property was demolished in November. Without the required 95% of Colony unit owners in support, the only way to dissolve the condominium association is through the courts.

Last month, a Circuit Court Judge rejected motions from several Colony Beach & Tennis Resort unit owners to dismiss a legal proceeding by Whittall’s Unicorp Colony Units LLC to dissolve the former resort’s condominium association. He will be back in Circuit Court on Thursday to set  a trial date on his attempt to disband  the Colony’s condominium association.

In order to get a building permit from the town, Unicorp must have complete control of the property. Unicorp was successful in consolidating ownership of the Colony’s recreational property at a partition sale in a Tampa federal courtroom.

Unicorp's bid of $29.51 million for the disputed 2.3 acres was successful in the all-or-nothing deal. Because the Orlando company already owned 95% of the property, the company paid investor and Colony unit owner Andy Adams for his 5%, or $1.4755 million. 

Since 1970, Longboat’s zoning has prohibited on-site sales offices before project building permits have been issued. 

“Why are we changing something that has worked for us for 40 years?” asked Commissioner Ed Zunz, before the vote.




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