Longboat Key businesses welcome St. Regis development
Construction officially started Monday morning on the St. Regis development.
| 2:45 p.m. October 22, 2021
Gail Loefgren sees a connection in the 1600 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive, one that wouldn't surprise her if it repeats itself.
The president of the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce said recently that the former Colony Beach & Tennis Resort not only drew visitors and tourism dollars to the town, but also permanent residents who were attracted by the tennis or the relaxed lifestyle.
It's a trend that could easily repeat itself in the years following the completion of the Residences at the St. Regis Longboat Key Resort.
“I think it’ll increase our property values because it’s the St. Regis, and we all know there’s a symbiotic relationship between visitors and real estate,” Loefgren said. “If you ask many of the old-timers who have been here for years, I would bet you that a huge percentage came from the Colony.”
Town Commissioners last week granted final approval for the project, paving the way for work to begin on the land Monday morning, alongside an invitation-only groundbreaking ceremony. Though the approval process, which dates back to a 2018 referendum, that was rejected by voters, had been contentious at times, the plan now is one that's drawing rave reviews.
Even among those who could be considered competition to the five-star resort's dining and entertainment options.
“We’re thrilled that it passed…I guess for many reasons, ” Loefgren said. “It’s a really high-end hotel, which will bring maybe new kinds of visitors to the island, and it’s a hotel that’s nightly. A lot of resorts went weekly or monthly.”
Unicorp’s plan calls for the construction of a specialty restaurant, a three-meal restaurant, a beach grill, a terrace bar, a lobby lounge and a Monkey Bar.
Restaurant owners Ray and D’Arcy Arpke of Euphemia Haye and Harry Christensen of Harry’s Continental Kitchens said they welcome the development. Both Euphemia Haye and Harry’s have called Longboat Key home for the last 40-plus years.
“I am just delighted that they finally got their plans through and that they’re going to go ahead and it’s going to be the greatest addition to Longboat Key that’s ever happened,” Harry Christensen said. “I look forward for the future with them, and being a part of it with them.
“Their guests are going to be my clientele and I’m going to take as good care of their guests as they’re going to take care of their guests.”
The Arpkes expressed a similar sentiment.
“We are feeling pretty positive about it,” D’Arcy Arpke said. “When we took over Euphemia Haye in 1980, the Colony was still there and operating and it had dining rooms and so forth.
“I kind of agree with that it benefits people. It’ll benefit everyone’s businesses.”
Loefgren said she has not heard any concerns from Longboat Key businesses.
“I have not heard one negative comment about anything that the St. Regis is going to offer,” Loefgren said.
Ray Arpke mentioned how people staying at the old Colony site would often explore other parts of Longboat Key during their stay.
“We got more reservations from the Colony than we did from any other source, any one single source on the Key, so I'm assuming it's going to be fairly similar to that,” Ray Arpke said.
Plus, Christensen pointed to all of the closures in Longboat Key through the years. It includes the old Colony, the Holiday Inn, Far Horizons, L'Auberge du Bon Vivant, the Poseidon restaurant, the Buccaneer Restaurant and the relation of the Amore Restaurant to downtown Sarasota.
“As far as competition with this, there’s been so many seats missing from Longboat Key in the last 15 years that it’s really no added competition as far as I’m concerned,” Christensen said.
“Even though we had the Hilton and the Colony, we lost that 235 rooms that turned nightly,” Loefgren said. “And, the hotels that have just one-night stays, they bring more visitors to the island, who will frequent the businesses more frequently than those who stay for a whole week.”
Katie Moulton Klauber, the daughter of Dr. Murray "Murf" Klauber, the developer of the Colony and the former general manager of the property told the crowd at the groundbreaking she knows the land is in capable hands.
"I know that your heart is equally large and this community will once again, benefit and be enriched by your generosity,'' she told Unicorp CEO Chuck Whittall.