Anyone who lived in Palm Coast before 2006 likely has a personal Palm Coast Resort story. I have several. Another chapter in the resort’s checkered history is about to be written.
PALM COAST, FL – October 16, 2019 – Another chapter in the history of Palm Coast Resort is about to be written. Atlanta-based Jacoby Development has submitted plans for two new developments in Palm Coast. One will involve the redevelopment of the Palm Coast Resort & Marina. The second involves construction of condominiums adjoining the Palm Harbor Golf Course.
PALM COAST RESORT & MARINA – 2005
When Shirley and I first visited Palm Coast in January 2000, Lowe Development owned and operated the 154-room Palm Coast Resort & Marina as well as the four original Palm Coast golf courses; Palm Harbor, Matanzas Woods, Pine Lakes, and Cypress Knoll. They were also developing Grand Haven at the time.
Coincidentally, Lowe, as Lowe Destination Resorts, also owned and operated Wild Dunes, near Charleston, S.C., where we lived. It prompted our Palm Coast visit to check out Grand Haven. Lowe offered reduced rates for a room at the resort plus two rounds of golf on Grand Haven’s Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course. The weekend’s unplanned result; we bought a lot in Grand Haven and decided to get married. We’ve been in Palm Coast since.
Lowe subsequently sold Grand Haven, and three of the golf original courses to Landmar Group but kept the resort, marina, and Palm Harbor course. In early 2005, the newly formed city of Palm Coast approved a plan to redevelop the resort property to include an 8-story, 209-unit condominium hotel, three condominium buildings (one 6-story and two 8-story) totaling 169 condominium units and a multi-level parking garage. The 84-slip marina would be maintained, but the existing hotel would be raised.
Two months later, Lowe sold the Palm Coast Resort and Palm Harbor Golf Course to Centex Homes for $38M. Centex planned to develop the properties under the Centex Destination Properties banner. The resort would be redeveloped according to Lowe’s approved plan. Palm Harbor would be closed, redesigned, and reconstructed by Jack Nicklaus Golf.
Centex had grand plans for a multi-location destination resort in Palm Coast that would have included a resort component at Cinnamon Beach, Marineland, Tidelands, Palm Coast Resort, Canopy Walk, and Bulow Shores (on John Anderson), plus the Palm Harbor Golf Course and the Ocean Course (now part of the Hammock Beach Resort). A water taxi would transport guests between the resort’s ICW venues.
Palm Harbor Golf Course was closed, and its clubhouse demolished. The resort hotel was leveled, and several magnificent old oak trees were removed. Late on the last night that Henry’s (the resort’s bar) was open and after helping to deplete the last of the resort’s single-malt scotch inventory, Shirley and I joined several friends and other Henry’s patrons in a fully clothed swim in the resort pool.
PALM COAST RESORT & MARINA – POST DEMOLITION 2006
The first of the three planned condominium buildings and the multi-level parking garage were completed before the real estate market collapsed. Simultaneously, Bobby Ginn was developing Yacht Harbor Village across the Intracoastal Waterway, which included a multi-level condominium. A rumor was floated around at the time that Ginn’s condo building was slowly sinking. I’ve been told that the rumor was started by someone on the Centex condominium sales team.
When the bubble burst, Centex decided it could no longer proceed with its Palm Coast vision and chose to divest its local holdings, but two issues were particularly problematic. The once lauded concept of condo hotels had faded. The business model was difficult to sustain. Centex approached the city with a request to amend the Palm Course Resort development order to remove the “condo-hotel” designation, allowing the development of a traditional hotel while also giving more flexibility in the allocation of hotel rooms and condominium units.
PALM COAST RESORT & MARINA – TODAY
The second problematic issue got in Centex’s way. The Palm Harbor course was in shambles and nearby residents were becoming increasingly strident in their complaints. The iron was hot, and Palm Coast struck. Centex got their resort development order amendment (with reduced density) but only after agreeing to convey the Palm Harbor course to the city.
The city spent roughly $5M to reconstruct Palm Harbor. It was reopened as a municipal course in November 2009. Ironically, Grand Haven’s Jack Nicklaus Signature course, fully operational with a large clubhouse, was sold only two years later for only $1.5M.
Centex was finally able to sell the partially developed resort property & marina and its property approved for condominium development surrounding Palm Harbor Golf Course, to Jacoby in December 2016 for $5.5M.
Any Jacoby plan would likely face at least two hurdles. First, the Centex plan for condominiums around the golf course would have resulted in the loss of the course’s practice area, creating an expected backlash from not only nearby residents, but also golfers. Second, the resort’s marina has grown old. It is run down and in desperate need of a costly upgrade, costly enough to make a hotel operator or resort developer shy away.
PALM HARBOR CONDOMINIUMS – CENTEX SITE PLAN
The plan the city is now fast-tracking addresses both issues. It will reduce the number of condominium units at the golf course location from 16 buildings containing 159 condo units to 5 buildings and only 120 units. The practice area will be preserved as will an area for a restaurant/Pro Shop, expanded cart storage, and additional parking.
PALM HARBOR CONDOMINIUMS – PROPOSED JACOBY SITE PLAN
The new resort plan increases the total of residential hotel/residential units from 306 to 318 but conveys the marina to the city. The developer will get credit for approximately $1M in previously paid but unused impact fees. To address the marina upgrade, the city has access to bonding and potential grant funding unavailable to a private developer.
HARBORSIDE AT PALM COAST RESORT – PROPOSED JACOB SITE PLAN
This looks like a win for Jacoby as well as for Palm Coast.