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Date of Issue: December 28, 2006

Perico Harbor Marina, businesses closing

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Boat and business owners at the Perico Harbor Marina have been given notice to vacate the premises as the present structure will be torn down as part of the Seven Shores condominium development. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Boat owners who rent dry storage space at the Perico Harbor Marina along with the accompanying businesses at the marina have been given the boot by the owner: the St. Joe Co. of Jacksonville.

Rudy Kratz, who owns Perico Island Boat Sales, said he was originally told he had to vacate the premises by Jan. 15, but got a 30-day extension last week.

Boat owners, however, say they have been given notice to remove their boats by Jan. 15.

For Kratz, it looks like the end of the line for his business.

"We can't get another waterfront location, so it looks like we're going out of business," he said.

Kratz was formerly at the Island Marina on Pine Avenue in Anna Maria for six years, but was forced out of that location when the owners elected to tear down the marina and sell off the individual lots. He's been at Perico Harbor for the past four years.

"I've been in the business 25 years," said Kratz, "but without a waterfront location, we're going to close up shop for good. There just aren't a lot of waterfront locations left in the area for our business."

The good news for boaters is that Kratz has more than 50 boats in his inventory, ranging in size from 12 feet to 36 feet and they've all got to be sold.

"We're going to have a gigantic clearance sale starting Jan. 1," said Kratz. "Basically, we're going to be discounting the boats down to the factory price."

The sale also includes trailers, parts, batteries, other boating accessories and new Yamaha outboard engines.

Kratz sells new Triumph, Pro Sport and Nautico Star boats, but will have some used boats with inboard engines for sale.

"I think it's fair to say there will be some pretty good package prices for boaters," he added. "We've got to clear out everything."

According to staff at the Dalia Deli convenience store located in front of the marina, that business has not been given any notice and will remain in operation.

The eviction notices were not unexpected.

St. Joe, the largest private landowner in Florida, bought the marina, the former Leverocks Restaurant and the convenience store several years ago as part of its plans for the Seven Shores condominium project located on the land adjacent to the marina.

The company has a Florida Department of Environmental Protection dredging permit for the boat basin in front of the marina and plans to build 180 wet-slip spaces for deep-draft boats, presumably for use by the condo owners.

At the time it purchased the marina, St. Joe submitted plans for a retail-office complex on the site of the marina, along with a restaurant. The convenience store and gasoline pumps in front of the marina would remain, St. Joe said, but indicated that fuel might only be available for condominium boat owners and residents once Seven Shores is operational.

Efforts to reach St. Joe spokesperson Jerry Ray in Jacksonville for an update on the company's plans for the marina and retail space have been unsuccessful.

St. Joe's Seven Shores project calls for 686 condominium units in 12 structures to be built in several phases around the complex. Last year, the company announced it was getting out of the home construction business, leaving that to local builders, but would continue to develop the infrastructure of its many projects.

Although infrastructure development at Seven Shores has been ongoing for the past two years, the start of actual construction of Phase I could well be in the distant future. Sources close to the project say only nine units have been sold since St. Joe opened its sales office in January 2006.

Efforts to confirm the number of sales at Seven Shores were unsuccessful.

Seven Shores is actually located in Bradenton, which annexed the property nearly seven years ago after St. Joe discovered it would have to pay Manatee County impact fees for its condo units, but could avoid the problem by being part of Bradenton.

A bitter legal struggle developed with the county along with the three Island cities, ManaSota-88 and several private individuals, claiming that Bradenton's actions were contrary to its own comprehensive plan.

The suit was settled several years ago, allowing St. Joe to proceed with its Seven Shores plans.

Unfortunately for the company, the condominium market, which had been so hot from 2003-2005 as prices for waterfront units, particularly on or near Anna Maria Island, began to fizzle in mid-2006. St. Joe has declined to indicate the price range of its Seven Shores units, but sources indicate the least expensive unit is around $600,000, with the asking price of some of the larger units selling in excess of $1 million.

The majority of St. Joe's current projects are in the Florida panhandle area.