Since a recent low of 2009, when occupancy dipped to 69.4 percent and the average rate was $172, the figures have increased consistently. In 2012, they jumped to 83.4 percent occupancy and an average rate of $212.87, and have continued the upward trend for the first two months of this year, according to Smith Travel Research.
“The whole investment climate now in real estate is not focused on appreciation as much as it is focused on cash flow,” Schmitt said.
The biggest attention-getter of the land rush was the purchase and planned bulldozing of iconic Holiday Isle. Developers somehow thought the setting was perfect for a five-star, ancient Greece-themed condo/hotel called Ocanos. Units would go for $1 million plus.
But the crash stopped the demolition. In March 2009, Starwood Capital acquired the hodgepodge complex in a deed in lieu of foreclosure. But the uncertainty had left the once crowded fun spot in shambles, with management so desperate for tourists that it was offering rooms for just $69 with two free welcome drinks.
After Starwood Capital discussed demolition and rebuilding, it decided to go the renovation route, and pumped more than $10 million into making the rundown home of the rum runner into “beach resort chic.” It’s now called Postcard Inn at Holiday Isle.
“There aren’t many places like this,” said Debbie Johnson, from Toronto as she sipped a margarita and watched her husband and kids soar past her on personal watercraft. “It’s one-of-a-kind and would have been a shame to have it torn down for condos.”
But it’s too late for some of the Keys’ precious affordable housing.
Jabour’s Trailer Park in Key West was torn down as part of Caroline Street Partners $23 million acquisition of land to build 32 three-bedroom condos called Harbor House. All that’s on the site now is one model townhouse and a city block worth of dust and weeds.
Well-known Keys developer Pritam Singh partnered with the bank that took over the foreclosed property, which is located in the heart of the Historic Seaport District near popular Schooner Wharf Bar. The city approved a 96-room hotel, but that project was delayed in October when neighboring residents filed a lawsuit to block construction due to its high density. But the project is back on track, with the case settled in December when the residents agreed to accept “money they could not refuse” for future inconveniences, attorney Robert Goldman said.
Gulfstream Trailer Park in Marathon also was demolished, with about 90 mobile home owners evicted to make way for Marlin Bay Yacht Club. High-end buyers were wooed at parties with free-flowing drinks. Today, the complex across from stacks of lobster traps looks beautiful from the front of the locked gate, but there are no yachts and no high-end buyers living there.
It has taken longer than expected for the new owners to figure out how best to proceed with the quarter-finished project, which includes a 99-slip marina, 7,600-square-foot clubhouse and pool.
Stuart-based attorney William Anderson originally said his unidentified clients were looking at a possible March 2012 grand opening, but that didn’t happen. Anderson, reached last week, said an announcement is expected in about two months.
“We have completed the clubhouse construction, repaired the units up to code and the pool and Tiki bar are done,” he said. “It really is spectacular. We’re getting ready for the next phase, to sell.”