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The key to building a future through resort renovation

Billy and Mark Walsh.

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

Remodeling, redesigning, updating have all become ubiquitous in residential construction, in the expectation of today’s homebuyers and in the desire of the millions of hotel and resort visitors who flock to our region each year.

Perhaps no company has more at stake in the hospitality business than Ocean Properties and its affiliates, which owns and manages more than 125 hotels and resorts nationwide, including the Lido Beach Resort, the Longboat Key Club, Zota, the Sandcastle and the Holiday Inn just to name a few in our region.

The evidence of renewal can be seen immediately at the Longboat Key Club as one enters the south entrance at Islandside where a complete makeover and road realignment has transformed the feeling of arrival at one of their most signature properties.

Slightly south on Lido Key, the Lido Beach Resort has recently remodeled every hotel room and the entire restaurant, bar and meeting and event spaces.

For Mark Walsh, who along with family members oversees the hotel and resort group of companies affiliated with the Walsh family and Ocean Properties, it is a business imperative.

“If you have a property with repeat customers, you have to keep them current. You have to keep improving them so your guests feel they are receiving value and are valued. You have to compete. There are always new ideas and sometimes there is also an element of improving the maintenance and operations through remodeling,” said Walsh.

Part of the pressure in the industry is fueled by the plethora of design and homebuying television shows that have made customers far more knowledgeable of finishes, trends and has heightened expectations.

The Walsh family inherited the look and design of the Lido Beach Resort when it purchased the property a few years ago and Walsh says, “The old space was dated and outlived its usefulness. We came in with a whole new redesign and came up with something that was far more contemporary, light and competitive.”

That statement rings true upon entering the eighth floor restaurant. Prior to the renovation, there was a massive fish tank that separated the view and created a claustrophobic effect. The entire dining room is now a wall of windows looking across the expansive beach. Additionally, several private dining and event spaces allow privacy, but more importantly from a business standpoint, the ability to market for special events and business functions.

At the Lido Beach Resort, the final act will be the renovation and transformation of the entrance and lobby.

From a macro view, the Walsh family and its affiliates own more than 125 properties in prime destinations, generally on the east coast, including Bar Harbor, Maine, the Sagamore on Lake George, New York, the Wentworth at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, as well as Lake Placid Lodge and other destinations such as Delray Beach, Key West and Sunset Key, Florida.

Melissa Reid in the new dining room at the Lido Beach Resort.

Maintaining value in the top-tier locations means a constant act of reinvention, staying current in a market driven by an appetite for new experiences. Much of the décor at the resorts is now being updated with what could best be described as coastal contemporary, with clean lines, rich royal blue and gray hues, all with a feeling of upscale Nantucket.

To the south of the Lido Beach Resort, the company owns the Sandcastle, once known as the Helmsley Sandcastle. Namesake owner, Leona Helmsley famously willed the property to her dog after she passed. That location will one day be razed and transformed into a modern building that will arc along the shoreline and was approved by the City of Sarasota last year.

On Longboat Key, the vast majority of units at Inn on the Beach have undergone extensive renovation. Almost all of the units are managed by the Longboat Key Club and again the need and demand to stay current and increase room rates and value is paramount. The lobby at Inn on the Beach, pool area, as well as the restaurant have all recently been renovated and remodeled with a complete makeover. Again, Walsh says they were dated with a look more akin to the 1970s and are now completely transformed. For Walsh this is all a continuation of the family-owned business that was started by his father, Tom Walsh, in Maine with a single hotel. The company and all of its affiliates is now run by his three brothers, sister and family members.

For Longboat Key, the investment is important as many future residents begin their acquaintance with the island by staying at the resort. From a business standpoint, success in the tourism industry is the successful combination of two multipliers: room rate and occupancy rate.

If history is an indicator of the future, it is a bright one for the Walsh family and its hotel and resort operations. After all, it is an empire that offers vacation experiences for millions of guests a year. And all of this success grew from a singular hotel in Maine decades ago.

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