Grist for the history mill: Bobby Ginn, Lubert Adler, real estate bubble, bad blood, Lowe Development, Centex departure, two golf courses and politics
Palm Coast, FL – September 4, 2014 – The Hammock Beach Club, Palm Coast’s most notable resort facility, has invited its members to see on Friday its latest plans to upgrade the club’s oceanfront lodge. This will be the second time in five months that resort operator, Salamander, has reached out to garner member support for the new plans. Salamander operates the resort and club for Lubert-Adler and reportedly holds an equity position in the facility.
The lodge and Jack Nicklaus signature golf course were completed in 2003 by Lowe Development, separate from The Ginn Club at Hammock Beach. The Ginn resort and adjacent residential property were developed by rival developer Bobby Ginn and his financial partner, Philadelphia-based Lubert Adler. Ginn had previously worked with Lowe in Palm Coast and before that at Wild Dunes near Charleston, S.C.
When Lowe decided to divest itself of the lodge and golf course in 2005, it chose to sell it to Centex Hospitality Group. That 2005 transaction was valued at $35,000,000. Centex, traditionally known best as a single-family residential homebuilder, had entered the resort development business, modeling itself after Lowe Destination Development.
Many believe that there was bad blood between Lowe and Ginn resulting in Ginn’s departure from Lowe and subsequent purchase of that phase of the Hammock Dunes DRI (Development of Regional Impact) on which the Ginn Resort was built. Lowe reportedly had an option to buy that phase, but some within the Lowe organization at the time feel that Ginn conspired to purchase it. Thus, it is commonly believed that Lowe spited Ginn by selling the lodge and golf course to Centex.
Barely a year later, Centex found itself an early victim of the real estate market collapse. Centex abruptly and dramatically departed the Palm Coast market. As a result, the City of Palm Coast got the Palm Harbor Golf Course (then closed) for free while Ginn was able to finally get his hands on what is now know as the Ocean Course for $37,676,000.
When the real estate bubble popped, so too did most of the projects being developed by Ginn and Lubert Adler. Only two are still viable in their original form, Hammock Beach and Reunion, near Orlando. Both are operated by Salamander. Ginn has long since been disassociated with the business. What used to be Ginn-LA (Ginn-Lubert Adler) is now LRA (presumably Lubert Adler Remaining Assets).
The golf industry suffered greatly during the Great Recession and faces challenges going forward. The assessed value of the Ocean Course and clubhouse dropped from a high of $32,054,860 in 2008 to only $4,154,322 in 2014, a drop of 87%.
The Hammock Beach Club needs to maximize revenue from its resort facility, which includes The Conservatory, its Tom Watson signature golf course on the west side of the Intracoastal Waterway and a marina and tennis facility at Harbor Village Marina. The current operating model does not accomplish that goal.
Market analysis shows that similar resorts are better equipped to attract large corporate groups, an important market segment since it is typically associated with mid-week, when amenities are operating at lower capacity levels. Hammock Beach needed more rooms and more conference space. But any plans to make changes to the resort to increase guest capacity and revenue must maintain a proper balance, satisfying both guests and its resident member core.
The difficulty of maintaining that balance was illustrated by a failed 2009 attempt to ram a more ambitious plan past club members, local residents and Flagler County Commissioners. In that occurrence, Ginn-LA surreptitiously avoided member participation, underestimating the effect of that strategy on the political acceptance of its plan.
Since, Salamander has entered the picture. The current effort to obtain approval for an expanded facility at the current lodge location has been better managed. Hammock Beach Club members and residents have been involved with Salamander. A town hall style meeting was held in April to roll out the new plans prior to submitting them to Flagler County planners.
Salamander, along with about a dozen Hammock Beach members and residents, met with County planners May 7th to discuss the plan submission and approval process. Last Wednesday, Salamander submitted its plan package to the County. The next step is a September 17th meeting with the Technical Review Committee. Residents and members will also attend that meeting.
The plan call for a 171,000 SF lodge building with:
- 198 total guestrooms – 450 SF each
- Pro Shop – 1,800 SF
- Locker Rooms – 1,800 SF
- Member locker rooms – 1,520 SF
- Member club rooms – 1,800 SF
- Member billiards room – 1,400 SF
- Member library – 780 SF
- Restaurant – 3,300 SF
- Private dining – 600 SF
- Bar & lounge – 1,650 SF
- Conference ball rooms – 5,400 SF
- Meeting rooms – 2,300 SF
To encourage resident and Club member support for the new lodge, Salamander will, upon achieving County approval, initiate the design and enhancement of the following amenities:
- Major renovation of the spa, and expansion of the fitness center and aerobics room
- Refurbishment of Delfinos restaurant and renovation of Loggerheads
- Expansion of the Ocean Course Hammock House to create enclosed dinding facilities in addition to the outdoor seating
Small in size but large in impact. The Hammock Dunes CDD (AKA PUD or DRI) area was part of the original ITT development known as Palm Coast, but it was not included in the City of Palm Coast as incorporated in 1999. The City of Palm Coast stops at the ICW. The recently designated Palm Coast Metropolitan Area encompasses all of Flagler County. How important is the HD CDD to the Palm Coast metro? The table below pretty much sums it up.
|Hammock Dunes CDD||Flagler County|
|RESIDENTIAL VACANT LOTS||836||25,863|
- The total 2013 taxable value for ALL real property in the HD CDD is $865,897,200.
- The total 2013 taxable value for ALL real property in Flagler County is $5,905,330,000.
- Only 3.2% of Flagler's vacant residential lots are in the HD CDD, but those lots represent 22.9% of the total 2013 taxable value for vacant residential lots in the county.
- Of all single-family homes in the county, only 2.1% are within the HD CDD but this small number comprises 9.5% of the 2013 taxable value for all county single-family homes.
- 28.2% of Flagler's condominiums are within the HD CDD. These account for 53.9% of all 2013 county condominium taxable value.