After a year-long process, questions about the future of the Fort Myers Yacht Basin were answered earlier this week when City Council approved its ground lease agreement with Dallas-based Suntex Marinas in a 5-2 vote.
“We are proud to be in Fort Myers and look forward to getting to work to bring the city the world class marina it deserves,” said David Filler, principal of Suntex. “Working with city leadership to get here was a pleasure and we look forward to building on that relationship and creating many more within the community.”
The agreement came in response to the previous Request for Proposal issued by the city for redevelopment and management of the yacht basin property and its associated land parcels.
The lease and management of the yacht basin is associated with five different parcels including the dock master property, a small concrete block building called J.C. Cruises and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission building. A list of additional properties identified as potential demised premises is also included in the lease. “These are some of the parcels that Suntex is potentially interested in going forward,” City Manager Marty Lawing said.
Some of those parcels include the Oxbow Bar & Grill parking area, the corner of Hendry Street and Edwards Drive at the Luminary Hotel, the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce building and Vivas Palm Park.
The 30-year initial lease term has two optional renewals for 25 years each. The investment in infrastructure and improvements will be as much as $45 million subject to the addition of demised premises, but no less than $30 million.
A provision in the lease states Suntex must spend at least $17.5 million on docks, wet slips, seawalls and related infrastructure within six years. “We believe it will happen very much quicker than that, but with permitting in the Army Corps of Engineers things can be slow from time to time,” Lawing said.
Minimum annual base rent is $400,000 for the first five years and will then increase by an additional $100,000 for the next two five-year periods. After that, every five years the base rent amount will increase by 10%.
As far as marina slips, all existing slip licenses have been terminated or shall be terminated by the city within 30 days after the effective day of the agreement. “There’s some flexibility on that timeframe,” Lawing said. “It’s not rigid to 30 days, but if this agreement is approved, we would need to develop a plan to notify the current boat owners that have boats in the facility regarding vacation.”
All uses of the property need to be consistent with zoning regulations. Proposed uses include 350 to 382 slips with floating docks and approximately 2,600 linear feet of new seawall, hospitality, retail and restaurant uses. Amenities include a boat club, day boat and watersport rentals, captain’s lounge, marine store, an in-slip pump-out service, fuel facilities, 24-hour security and approximately 40,000 square feet of upland buildings.
“Long term leases for marinas by municipalities is a is a very common practice and there’s numerous examples of that in the state of Florida,” Lawing said. “So as part of the due diligence process, we took a visit in early August to Sarasota, which has a contract with Suntex to operate the Marina Jack facility.”
Sarasota’s city manager and attorney reported a positive working relationship with Suntex, Lawing said. The city also spoke with the city of Fort Lauderdale, which is currently under contract with Suntex for the development of Las Olas Marina. Fort Lauderdale’s city manager and a city commissioner also reported positive relations with Suntex.
“Suntex has proven throughout the state of Florida that it has the ability to deliver something we have needed for a long time,” said Fort Myers-based attorney Sawyer Smith, who is representing the company. “An active, vibrant waterfront open to all of us who call Fort Myers home.”