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Longboat Key Friday, Aug. 17, 2018 1 year ago

Longboat condos keeping up with the times

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Condominiums on Longboat Key are spending millions of dollars to keep abreast market trends in common spaces.
by: Bret Hauff Staff Writer

Longboat Key condominiums are doing what they can to keep up with the times.

Whether it’s new paint, updated amenities or heavy construction, condominium associations are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to upgrade common elements and public spaces, keeping up with unit owners who themselves are ditching out-of-date styles.

“I’m hearing about boards talking about how to make it a better place and real competitive with the [condominiums] that are brand new,” said Gretchen Stricker, property manager at Villa Di Lancia Condo Associates. “You can say it’s aging condos, but it’s really the opportunity, when you fix something, it’s your opportunity to say, ‘Hey, let’s do it better this time.’”

Many of the condominiums on Longboat Key were built decades ago and are ripe for upgrades.

“Everybody has some projects going on, particularly in the summer when everybody’s gone,” said Bill Deskus, property manager at Seaplace Association. “Condominiums can’t stand still. If they stand still they become obsolete.”

This past month, Seaplace Association received a permit to renovate its clubhouse for $450,000, a project that Deskus said should be completed by December. The project includes new tile, artwork, lighting, appliances and doors for the club house, as well as a 24-foot door that opens to the gulf.

“We’re going to upgrade half the building,” Deskus said.

Mary T. Del Pup, a Seaplace resident, said it’s important for condominiums to keep up even with things as small as landscaping because it is important for potential buyers.

“It costs money, but everybody has to agree, and it seems like everything works out,” Del Pup said. “You’ve invested in a good property, and you want it to keep up even with the landscaping and stuff like that. If that goes down, your whole property goes down.”

The Seaplace project has been in the works for years as part of a larger conversation, Deskus said. This project is a major one in a list of other renovations, such as new paint for the building exterior, that Seaplace has plans to complete in the coming years.

Before and after of the L'Ambiance lobby, courtesy of Markley Construction

Most buyers are upgrading their units as soon as they buy them, sometimes leaving condominium associations behind as market conditions have proven bountiful for owners, Deskus said.

But common element upgrades aren’t dependent on the strength of the real estate market. The money associations get is from fees or special assessments to unit owners.

In another example of improvements, Beachplace Association replaced the roofs on all 11 of its buildings in the past few years, a project that cost the condominium association about $3 million, said property manager Loren Lyson.

While old condominiums are not “trying to keep up with the Joneses” when it comes to new condominium projects, Lyson said Beachplace is doing what it can to keep its common elements up-to-date relative to newer condominiums like Aria or the proposed St. Regis Hotel and Residences.

“It was the committee that recognized that we are 40 years old, but we don’t have to show our age,” Lyson said. “We can take something like the common lobbies and upgrade them to today’s styles.”

Beachplace resident Stanley Horwich said the condo community’s common elements help create a sense of camaraderie among residents. And while quarterly fees to residents may get more expensive as the condominiums do more projects, Longboat’s affluent population can afford it, Horwich said.

“They do it because Beachplace is 30 some years old and there are things that have to be done,” Horwich said of updating common elements. “And when they have to be done you do it before it gets worse.”

Gail Wittig, a Realtor and broker on Longboat Key for more than two decades, said common elements can make or break a sale. When it comes to wowing a potential buyer, first impressions count, Wittig said.

“Usually, if it’s a mid-rise or high-rise, you enter with the buyer into the lobby area. If it’s tired and dated, they already have a not real positive image of the building,” Wittig said. “That’s a first impression, and I think it needs to be a good one.”

Beachplace spent about $1 million in the past few years to renovate its lobbies in all 11 towers. 

L’Ambiance at Longboat Key Club  in 2016 renovated its lobby. It wouldn’t disclose what it spent, other than to say it was less than $1 million.

L’Ambiance Condominium Association President Scott Rutledge said the project was worth the two years it took to plan, design and construct.

 Just like any real estate owner, condominium associations must make the changes “to reflect the changing tides and expectations” of the market, he said.

“This work is expensive and it takes time to get it done, and there’s an inconveniences associated with the work being undertaken, but when it’s done the reward are positive and substantial,” Rutledge said.

But common elements are just as important for property values as they are for residents’ sense of community, said Longboat Harbour resident Mary Drugan. Longboat Harbour offers four swimming pools, a woodworking room, a clubhouse, a workout room and multiple clubs.

“If you’re bored in our complex, then there’s something wrong with you,” Drugan said.

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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