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Even marinas 'going condo' Leased boat slips give way in Englewood to purchased "rackominiums."
Herald Tribune
February 12. 2006 12:00AM

ENGLEWOOD - Englewood's Thunder Marine is expanding its longtime marina and converting all its slips to "rackominiums," keeping with a trend in the state's marina industry.

The rackominium model has been replacing the traditional leasing model on Florida's coasts. Just as with condos, the boat slips are sold to buyers who pay monthly dues and form an association that runs the facility.

Englewood marina owners say the conversion to rackominiums is a way for marinas to stay open in the face of skyrocketing operating costs.

Thunder Marine described the conversion as "just a different way of doing business," said Bill Vanik, vice president of LaPrade Development Inc., which owns the South McCall Road marina.

"We saw a real opportunity to service the boating community," he said.

Thunder Marine will retain 100 of its covered dry slips, currently located in an orange sheet-metal building fronting South McCall Road. The marina will build about 80 new covered slips for boats 30 to 42 feet long on its Lemon Bay property.

Current rack prices range from $19,995 for a 17-foot boat to $179,995 for a 42-foot boat. The marina also has six wet slips -- or "dockaminiums" -- that range from 30 feet ($124,995) to 50 feet ($224,995).

Vanik said buyers so far have reserved 39 of the dry slips and three wet slips.

Monthly service fees will range from $75 to as much as $300, but will average about $100. Buyers, he said, would be able to rent out their slips or sell them as they wish.

"When you purchase one of our slips, it's just like buying a second home," Vanik said.

To allow for the full-storage model, the marina will do away with its sales and service business. Boat sales will be moved to Thunder Marine in St. Petersburg, and most of the boat service will be handled by a mobile unit, Vanik said.

To reflect the change to an all-storage facility, the marina will also change its name to "Harbor at Lemon Bay."

While the rackominium concept might be new to Englewood, Vanik said the business model has been used for years in Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples. And Harbor at Lemon Bay might not be alone in Englewood's rackominium market.

Marine Dynamics on Placida Road is looking into expanding its dry-storage business, and some of the slips will be sold as rackominiums, said owner Paul Collom.

Collom said the increasingly high cost of running his marina will force him to sell instead of rent some slips.

"The property values have been increasing at such an alarming rate. The property taxes keep going up," said Collom. Echoing his fellow marina owners, Collom said the cost of taxes and rising business insurance has well outpaced the rental rates for slips.

"It's just economics," Collom said of the rackominium conversion. "You can't afford to have affordable dry storage without recouping some of that capital."

Collom said that, while many details of the expansion have to worked out, Marine Dynamics will continue to sell boats and offer full repair service.

Just south on Placida Road, Dean Beckstead, owner of Palm Island Marina, said he, too, is being hit with the rising costs of running a marina.

He said Palm Island will continue to rent both long-term and "transient" slips. For now, the 265-slip marina isn't looking to convert to rackominiums. "That doesn't mean we wouldn't go that way in the future," Beckstead said.

"It's getting to the point where it's hard to be in the marina business," he said. As an example, Beckstead said he is looking to add 25 wet slips; no work has been done, yet the permit process alone has cost him $250,000.

Given the "cost structure" of the business, he said he can understand why his fellow owners would pursue the rackomiunium route.

"They look at the value of their land, and they can make a lot more money by selling it off that way," Beckstead said. "If it works, you cash out up front."
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