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End of the Colony, Start of St. Regis

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

The return of a resort at the former Colony on Longboat Key has always been embedded in a nexus of two fundamentals.

First, the final resolution of a past marred and mired in litigation and enmity. The second fundamental is the accomplishment of a vision to rebuild the site into a project embraced by the community as well as the condominium and hotel market.

Unicorp President Chuck Whittall has clearly succeeded on the first half, which is settling all outstanding lawsuits and consolidating ownership and control over the site that had been at one time, divided into 237 separately deeded units.

Whittall is a long way along toward accomplishing the second fundamental in that he has gained approval by the town of Longboat Key to build a 166-room hotel and 69 condominium units to be under the St. Regis brand.

Whittall has also engaged Michael Saunders & Company to lead the sales and marketing effort for the condominiums that will be priced between $2 million and $10 million.

Whittall wrote a letter last Thursday to all of the unit owners of the former Colony entitled, ‘Return to Colony.’ The letter explained that the final litigation between Unicorp and Andy Adams, who controlled more than 30 percent of the original Colony units, is now over. Whittall has the Adams units under contract.

Whittall also said in his letter that the building plans for the hotel and condominiums are being completed and will be ready by year’s end. He said that the marketing materials and associated website will all be completed by end of June and units will be available starting in July.

Former owners of the Colony have the option to be paid by Whittall for their units under their existing contract or to purchase a future unit and have a credit. The letter’s intent is to encourage the unit owners to finalize that decision because there is tremendous outside interest in the project.

Last month, when Whittall settled with Adams, he said he planned to start marketing and selling the units after Thanksgiving of this year. Since that time, Whittall has been encouraged by the level of interest from snowbirds to purchase a condominium in the future development.

“I believe there is such strength of interest and in the local market right now, because many people want to stay here and avoid the problems found in the high density cities of the northeast,” said Whittall.

Whittall said a formal sales center will be on the site sometime after Thanksgiving, but after consulting with Michael Saunders, the decision is to start marketing in July.

The largest penthouses will be more than 10,000 square feet, but Whittall is especially excited about the numerous details and innovations he plans for the property.

Just as an example, Whittall said electronic robotic lawnmowers will cut grass in the middle of the night and workers will use brooms on the property instead of leafblowers. The idea is to avoid noise pollution and to add what he says is a far more elegant presence than someone running around with a noisy gas leafblower.

Whittall also speaks of beachside concierge service, foot jacuzzis and driers when people come off the beach, as well as special watch bands so a drink or food service can be delivered anywhere on the property using GPS.

Will there be a place for the storied history of the former Colony somewhere on the site?

“We want to capitalize on that,” says Whittall.

He says a book is being written on the history of the property and Longboat Key and will be part of visitors’ experience. There will also be a Monkey Bar, which was a hallmark of the former Colony and a ‘Murf Dog’ will be served which was purportedly the Colony founder’s lunch favorite.

 

Path to completion

Whittall said it was the longest amount of time he has ever had to take to consolidate ownership and get a permit for a project.

“I’ve never had to deal with so much litigation and so much resistance from local government on such a good project,” said Whittall.

Whittall told former Town Manager Dave Bullock many years ago when he first got involved that he was not going to give up.

And now, more than a decade since the Colony closed and more than six years since Whittall became involved, the entire situation has changed.

Whittall says the town of Longboat Key “has done a 180,” and that the current Mayor Ken Schneier has been supportive as has town staff.

Whittall spoke to Longboat Key News on Friday while visiting the island. He said what attracts both he and his wife as well as countless visitors to the region is the charm of Sarasota and the islands. He plans to go boating over Memorial Day weekend on the intercoastal and make his way to restaurants along the water.

It would be the epitome of understatement to say Whittall is excited about being past the litigation and entering the phase of development.

“My daughter was 11 years old when we started this at the Colony, and now she is 18. Life moves quickly, and I cannot wait to help create a place where residents and visitors can have the kinds of experiences and memories that made the former Colony such a legendary destination,” said Whittall.

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1 Response for “End of the Colony, Start of St. Regis”

  1. Fred Stuart says:

    Steve: Tone it down, friend. We all know you went to college. But”embedded, nexus” in the same graph causes readers to look for the Comics page. In the next graph, you could have pasted Marred and Mired on the wall and thrown darts at them to ckoose on. Both? Not so good.
    Relax.
    You’re at the beach.
    With a job!
    Fred Stuart

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