Developer withdraws plan to redevelop Fort Lauderdale show site

FORT LAUDERDALE — The development company that holds the lease on the Bahia Mar Resort and Yachting Center withdrew its application to redevelop the property.
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FORT LAUDERDALE — The development company that holds the lease on the Bahia Mar Resort and Yachting Center — the main venue of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show — withdrew its application to redevelop the property, with partner Jimmy Tate saying that after recent events the project “is no longer economically viable for us.”

In a letter delivered last Friday to the city of Fort Lauderdale and in an interview Trade Only Today had with Tate, developer TRR Bahia Mar LLC/RAHN Bahia Mar LLC cited these reasons for withdrawing the application:

  • Vocal neighborhood opposition to the plan, which forced the developer to pare two condominium towers from 39 to 29 stories each, for a loss of 230,000 square feet of floor space, and to substitute more greenway and boardwalk for some commercial space envisioned in the original plan;
  • The lease terms and conditions that the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, the boat show’s owner, and Show Management, its producer, are seeking for the use of Bahia Mar each fall for the show, which the developers characterized as “not even close to being fair and equitable;”
  • And difficulties the developers have had negotiating a new 50-year lease and a 50-year extension option with the city to operate the hotel and marina on its property. The extension is necessary if the developers wish to build and sell condominiums, an important profit-maker in their redevelopment package. The new lease would supersede one they have, which has 46 years remaining.

“We have simply concluded that, for reasons well beyond our control, the process has taken on a life of its own and, unfortunately, the results are no longer fair and equitable for us as owners of the leasehold interest,” the letter said.

Despite those setbacks, Tate said TRR Bahia Mar still has a 46-year lease on Bahia Mar and five years remaining on its contract to host the boat show at Bahia Mar.

In a joint statement, Show Management president Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III and MIASF executive director Phil Purcell said they were “disappointed” at the turn of events after working “diligently and in good faith” on the plan with the developers and the city.

They said they had “actively supported” the new design and were happy with provisions in it for the boat show.

“We are fully prepared to support it and look forward to working with [the developers] on any new proposal they come up with,” Zimbalist told Trade Only Today. In either case, he said, Bahia Mar “is not a world-class facility and needs to be improved.”

Purcell agreed. “It’s an area we’d like to see redeveloped,” he told Trade Only Today.

Although the redevelopment remains in limbo, Zimbalist said Show Management will undertake significant efforts of its own to upgrade the site during the 2016 boat show.

In their joint statement, Zimbalist and Purcell said there had been general discussions about a long-term lease between Bahia Mar and the boat show early on, but Show Management and the MIASF were just preparing to begin formal negotiation on specific terms with TRR Bahia Mar when it withdrew its plan. Zimbalist said the show still has five years on its existing contract with Bahia Mar, so the show will go on.

Show Management and the MIASF are seeking a 30-year contract to keep the show at the Bahia Mar hotel/resort/marina, but the rent provisions must be structured to “mirror the ups and downs in the economy over the life of the contract,” Zimbalist told Trade Only Today.

Purcell told Trade Only Today that the boat show paid Bahia Mar “over $5 million” to use its property in 2015.

Zimbalist is aiming for Bahia Mar and Show Management to come to terms on a long-term lease in the next year or two. “There’s still an opportunity to negotiate, whether it is with the current plan or not,” he said in the interview.

Meanwhile, the MIASF and Show Management have reached a 30-year agreement for Show Management to produce the show for the MIASF, and this has helped “ensure the show’s future,” Purcell and Zimbalist said in their statement. They said they are “grateful” for the city’s commitment to ensuring that the show stays in Fort Lauderdale, its home for 56 years.

The redevelopment plan envisioned a $1 billion hotel-residential-marina complex with a park-like public promenade along the waterfront and a parking garage convertible to indoor exhibit space during the show.

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