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Date of Issue: August 20, 2008

Owners hope lucky seven for Tidemark Marina Resort

This month marks the seventh anniversary of the Holmes Beach City Commission’s controversial approval of the Tidemark Marina Resort at the site of the former Pete Reynard’s restaurant adjacent to Wachovia Bank. Yet, the start of vertical construction has not yet begun.

But that’s not for lack of effort on the part of the current owners, Ken Dardis and Lance McNeil, and they’re hoping seven turns into a lucky number for the project, which has had an often rocky road since its inception in 2001.

The Tidemark has been through bankruptcy. The original owner/developer, Nick Easterling, is no longer involved with the development. The concept of the resort has changed from condominiums to fractional ownership. The owners have partnered with the Beach Inn on 66th Street in Holmes Beach and Sean Murphy to form the Tidemark Beach Resort at that site. The entire Island real estate market has gone from highs to lows, forcing a hold on the start of construction on Marina Drive until the market is favorable.

In June 2007, McNeil delivered plans to the Holmes Beach building department in anticipation of the start of construction, but those plans eventually changed and no vertical construction began.

However, progress has been made.

The grand opening of the Tidemark Beach Resort on 67th Street in Holmes Beach is set for Sept. 10, said McNeil, and the 62 boat slips encompassing the marina portion of the Tidemark Marina Resort are completed and the marina operational.

 McNeil said he expects to begin vertical construction by early spring next year. He’s been “encouraged” by signs that indicate the Island’s real estate market is on the upswing and prices have “stabilized.”

“I’m hopeful,” McNeil said, but acknowledged that getting the Tidemark Marina portion of the two resorts under construction has been slowed by fluctuations in the real estate market, a conversion of the property from condominiums to fractional ownership, and an accompanying redesign of the structures.

Tidemark Marina Resort will now offer some three-bedroom units among the 40 available, he said.

With Island real estate agents reporting an upswing in sales and prices, McNeil is optimistic.

“The timing is right for this project. We’ve had a tremendous response from our marketing after the redesign and we have a host of amenities to offer,” he said. More than 300 people have indicated an interest in purchasing a unit under the fractional ownership program.

But what the marketing study has shown is that people “want to see a finalized project,” if they’re buying a private residence.

“People have said ‘Let us know when you have something for us to look at,’” McNeil noted.

The effort now is to get vertical construction started.

“We would love to get what works in the market for people to see,” he said.

Fractional units at the Tidemark Marina start at $150,000, while those at Tidemark Beach begin at $190,000, McNeil said.

The Tidemark Marina Resort office is located just behind the Wachovia Bank at the Marina Drive-Gulf Drive intersection in Holmes Beach.

 Further information is available on the Internet at http://www.tidemarkflorida.com.

SIDEBAR

Tidemark found some rocks in its tide

When original Tidemark developer Nick Easterling first obtained site-plan approval from the city commission in August 2001, following a number of contentious and stormy public meetings, he then said he expected to begin construction within six months and units would sell for about $250,000.

But when Island property sale prices climbed by 20 to 30 percent annually between 2001 and 2004, Easterling opted to wait for higher prices, a decision that would prove fateful for the project’s financial backers.

With Easterling continuing to predict almost daily that the start of construction was just a “few weeks away,” six months dragged on for three years, and Tidemark never reached its required 50 percent pre-sale requirement for construction financing.

Faced with mounting monetary difficulties, Easterling filed for bankruptcy in January 2004. As part of the bankruptcy settlement, Tidemark was taken over by Reliance Property Group in 2005, and Easterling left the management team.

But the new owners were stung by a plummeting real estate market, particularly for condominiums. Demand along with prices fell dramatically between 2005 and 2007, while the inventory of available units rose accordingly.

It’s only been in the past few months that the market has stabilized, according to seasoned Island sales agents and prices and sales have slowly begun to rise.

With seven years in the waiting, the Tidemark Marina Resort now appears ready to achieve the lofty goals Easterling predicted in August 2001, according to its representatives.