Don’t bulldoze my home
There are some people in this town who want to bulldoze the 237 condos at the Colony Beach and Tennis Club.
Georgie McFarland commented in the Longboat Key News, “Most of the Colony should be bulldozed immediately.”
People are also understandably tired of the legal fights and the loss of tax revenue — real estate taxes, tourism taxes and sales taxes. Some of our neighbors have jumped into the fray, charging that the property is run down.
The truth is they are all right.
But bulldozing our homes is not the answer. It will lead to years, if not decades, of legal wrangling between all parties involved. We will end up legally stinging each other to death like scorpions in a bottle.
If we level the Colony, this prime gulf-front land will remain vacant and run down for years to come. The Colony will become a ghost town, a once vibrant community reduced to tumbleweeds blowing in the wind among the empty buildings.
The thousands of wealthy visitors and tennis buffs, who used to visit the town and spend their money with such abandonment, won’t be coming to the Colony anymore. They will go to St. Barts or Naples or another prime vacation spot. Real estate tax revenue to the town will drop to a fraction of what it once was. Tourism taxes will be non-existent, and restaurants and shops will suffer.
In this scenario, nobody wins.
Murf Klauber deserves a debt of gratitude for the marvelous and wonderful resort he created and nurtured for 50 years.
When Murf started selling people on Longboat Key and Sarasota 50 years ago, there was nothing here. He was the first. He was selling a dream. Since then, more than a million people have passed through the Colony in the last 30 years. Many have gone on to buy houses and condos on other parts of the island.
Political figures and celebrities have come to the Colony to relax and rejuvenate on our glorious beach. Our guest list has been diverse, including Jimmy Carter, Dustin Hoffman, Bud Collins, Jack Hanna, Al Gore and countless others. George W. Bush was staying here with his brother Jeb when he learned of the attack on 9/11.
Murf pioneered the concept of sports tourism when he made tennis a central focus, attracting the likes of Pete Sampras, Monica Seles and champion tennis coach Nick Bollettieri. Murf’s matchmaking tennis program propelled the Colony to number one rank as a resort in Tennis Magazine — for eight years in a row!
The Colony was and still could be a powerful gateway to the entire LBK community. What we have is not just any cookie cutter hotel; it is a unique and wonderful place in a country that is losing its special paces. Under current FEMA zoning rules, it could never be rebuilt from scratch.
Tearing down the Colony would destroy a national treasure, like bulldozing The Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, the Del Coronado in San Diego, or the Fontainebleau in Miami.
I book thousands of people in exclusive resorts and hotels around the world, and historic hotels have a special appeal. Sophisticated casual, beach chic — whatever you call it, it’s what people want. People don’t want high-rise slabs, when they can have a beautiful campus-like setting, steps from the beach.
What can be preserved at the Colony should be and reopened as soon as possible. And what can’t be restored should be quickly rebuilt. This makes sense economically, emotionally and legally.
This week, the board came to an agreement with Andy Adams — owner of 51 units — and Coral Hospitality to restore our historic resort town back to the condition it was in 20 years ago. They are looking to recreate the Four Star Resort that belongs on this landmark site.
Andy has a tremendous stake in the Colony. He wants what we want and he is willing to put up the money, along with the owners, to make it happen. Andy wants to get to work as soon as possible, with the goal of opening some units before the winter season.
This will start with a thorough cleanup and landscaping of the grounds starting this Saturday. The Colony Board already committed $35,000 to this effort.
No one can tell you, at this time, what the future will bring in terms of legal actions, but, for now, we are in control of our destiny and our units. We must be prepared to seize the opportunities as they present themselves over the next few weeks and months. The best way to make a deal for the missing three acres is to start fixing up what we have. There is no time to waste, as our condos slide into disrepair, neighbors complain and we get no use out of them.
If we start now — and the town can give us an extension on the grandfathered zoning — we can make this part of historic old Florida magnificent again.
Give us a chance to make our dream a reality.
Blake Fleetwood, a Colony condo owner, is a former reporter for the New York Times who has written for New York Magazine, the Washington Monthly and the New York Daily News. He also owns a travel agency. He fell in love with the Colony 15 years ago when he first came with his wife and two sons and hopes to retire on Longboat Key.