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The era of the destination marina

‘You have to offer other things to do,’ says a panelist at a Fort Lauderdale future-of-the-industry discussion.
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A marina is not just a place to store your boat these days. It’s a destination, which means restaurants, shopping, entertainment and cultural attractions — if not on-site, then close by. It also means modern docks, superyacht-size electrical hookups, pools, a captains’ lounge and, for sure, Wi-Fi.

“These are not options anymore. They are expected and mandatory if you’re going to get a high-end client,” says Raymond Graziotto, president and COO of Seven Kings Holdings, the owner of 12 Loggerhead-branded Florida marinas. Graziotto was part of a panel discussion — moderated by Soundings Trade Only editor-in-chief Bill Sisson — on the future of marinas during the opening-day press breakfast at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

High-end clients are highly important, Graziotto says. “Wi-Fi is more important than water,” he says. The successful marina also has to offer activities such as trips to the Bahamas, barbecues and potluck dinners that bring tenants together.

Another panelist was Mehmet Bayraktar, chairman and chief executive officer of the Flagstone Property Group, which is developing the $1 billion Island Gardens luxury destination on Miami’s Watson Island (see Page 23). Plans call for two hotels, a residential high-rise, upscale restaurants, high-end shops, water taxi service and a superyacht marina for 50 boats as large as 550 feet.

The marina is scheduled to open in December, in time to host superyachts attending Yacht Miami Beach, formerly known as the Yacht & Brokerage Show in Miami Beach.

Bayraktar says the 10-acre site will be a “little village,” mixing the luxury and elegance of Monaco with the styling of St. Tropez. And nearby, in Miami’s downtown, are the performing arts center, science and art museums, the opera, nightclubs and the Miami Heat’s NBA arena, and in the other direction, Miami Beach’s South Beach and its offerings.

“When boat owners or charterers go to a destination, they don’t just go there to sit on the boat, sleep on the boat and have fun on the boat,” he says. “You have to offer them other things to do.”

Bert Fowles, marketing vice president of IGY Marinas, which owns 14 facilities in the Caribbean, says a high-end marina that services big yachts also must cater to the yachts’ professional captain and crew, providing a pool, a lounge, maybe quarters — and entertainment close by.

“Location, location, location,” Fowles says.

On the brick-and-mortar side, wind and waves, ice, hurricanes and tsunamis will become more problematic because of a rise in sea level, says Steve Ryder, project development manager at Bellingham Marine Industries, which designs and builds marinas. A marina owner must adopt a design that works for the site and anticipates more aggressive wave and storm action as the sea levels go up. The owner also must adopt “best practices” to protect the marina and the boats in it, he says.

Utilities must be raised to anticipate more flooding in the years ahead, says Robert Christoph Jr., president of operations for the RCI Group. Utilities must be upgraded for larger and larger yachts, and slips must be designed to accommodate wider and wider beams, he says. “Remember, you’re building a facility for 25 years from now,” he says.

Christoph agrees that as a marina attracts larger yachts managed by professional crews, it must accommodate them, as well as the owners, with captains’ quarters, lounges, gyms, pools and restaurants. “Make it a true destination,” he says.

Ryder says different types and sizes of yachts will use marinas of the future, so the utility plan must serve them all — three-phase as well as single-phase electricity, for example. “You’ve got to be able to accommodate just about everybody,” he says.

Overregulation is among the greatest challenges facing marina developers, panelists agree. Bayraktar says it took him 34 months to get the permitting for Island Gardens’ Deep Harbour marina. Then, to protect seagrass along the shore from silt, he had to build “godzilla curtains” and hand-pick seagrass and replant it elsewhere. In jest, but clearly unhappy, he says he had to assign people to quietly talk to the seagrass to nurture its growth.

The cost of countermeasures to contain turbidity in the basin during construction was $4.5 million. The cost of overregulation is also a challenge, he says, and Bellingham’s Ryder agrees.

“Overlapping layers and layers of regulatory review costs a lot of money,” he says.

This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue.

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