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MW Development Group pitched a Colony redevelopment proposal in 2008 and has been part of two failed settlement negotiations; currently MW Development is in the middle of settlement negotiations with affected Colony parties.
Longboat Key Wednesday, Jun. 26, 2013 4 years ago

MW Development Group pushes Colony project

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

Longboat Key resident Manfred Welfonder’s top priority in the past six years has been rebuilding the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, even though the Colony Association Board of Directors did not choose MW Development Group to redevelop the property.

That doesn’t faze Welfonder, who continues to state his project is the best for the property.

The plan calls for the construction of 160 hotel units built in one or two midrise buildings developed and/or managed by an international hotel company and owned by the developer; the construction of 180 vacation ownership units/residences; 10 private residence clubs; and a three-meal restaurant, pool bar, ballroom, meeting rooms, spa, Har-Tru tennis court and an agreement with nearby golf courses allowing for use of the facilities.

MW Development Group pitched a redevelopment proposal in 2008 and has been part of two failed settlement negotiations; currently MW Development is in the middle of settlement negotiations with affected Colony parties.

The project received support but fell to the wayside as lawsuits and bankruptcy filings continued. Many Colony owners at the time were convinced all of the existing buildings could be saved.

“We were the only ones back in the day pushing for a rebuild project, because we didn’t believe the buildings could be saved,” Welfonder said. “That’s not what many wanted to hear.”

MW Group was one of six finalists when the board first chose a developer in 2011. Ultimately, the board chose Club Holdings Ventures, although both parties agreed to terminate the relationship less than a year later. But Welfonder said his project was never vetted properly.

Asked to respond, Colony Association President Jay Yablon said, “Manfred Welfonder is simply a broker who does not himself bring the capacity to the table, nor has he proved or divulged from where he would get the capacity, nor is there any evidence provided to the association that some entity with sufficient capacity would actually underwrite the supposed great deal from MW Development Group.”

MW Development Group, Welfonder said, has three letters of intent with contingencies from private and/or corporate sources for both equity and debt.

“We are the only proponent that has such a detailed project that capital partners can rely upon,” Welfonder said.

Despite the fact the project hasn’t been selected, Welfonder’s persistence has led some Colony unit owners and outsiders to question why MW Development Group’s project wasn’t selected previously.

Mary Ann O’Neill, a Colony unit owner, said she has sent several emails to the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort Association Board of Directors asking why the project isn’t being considered.

“When I first read the MW proposal, it was the right answer,” O’Neill said. “It has hospitality experience, and the JHM proposal doesn’t. To me, the comparison of the two is night and day, and it makes me worried about where we are headed.”

O’Neill also said the no-cost option the MW proposal provides gives owners an option no other proposal has offered.

John Lamont, a former owner and former president of the Colony Association Board of Directors from 1995 to 2000, said he left the board and sold his unit in 2011, when the association made known its intent to strategically file for bankruptcy.

“I have a feeling there’s a personal bias that exists against Manfred’s proposal and that’s a shame,” said Lamont, who believes some unit owners and board members are upset that Welfonder was correct in maintaining the property needed to be torn down and rebuilt. “Now there’s a reluctance to concede a mistake was made, and Manfred gets caught up in that.”

In response, Yablon said, “Welfonder was given the opportunity to make his case to the owners advisory committee, and they did not select his proposal.”

Yablon said it’s time to move on, noting the board signed a letter of intent with JHM Financial June 6. The move gives the company sufficient time to demonstrate whether it can deliver settlements with the key parties. The length of settlement-negotiation time agreed upon was not disclosed to unit owners.

To view a comparison of redevelopment proposals from JHM and MW Development Group, click here.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].

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