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The bravest developer: Robert Hensley


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  • | 7:04 a.m. March 18, 2013
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When the Business Observer interviewed developer Robert Hensley about building a $150 million condo hotel in Cape Coral in 2007, the headline read: “The Bravest Developer.”

Indeed, the Lee County developer was one of the boldest entrepreneurs in the region. Hensley died March 2 at age 56.

Hensley, who had moved to Southwest Florida from Michigan in the early 1980s, acquired Tarpon Point marina and 150 surrounding acres at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River in June 2001 from Allete Properties. He paid $29 million in cash and three months later he sold 44 waterfront lots for $23.4 million, nearly recouping his investment.

Hensley, through his company Grosse Pointe Development, continued to develop Tarpon Point through the boom. Investors were so anxious to buy townhomes and condos there that they camped for two days for the opportunity. In February 2002, Hensley sold more than 100 townhomes in five hours and grossed $48 million.

The market continued to surge through the mid-2000s and in 2004 Hensley's company sold 210 condos at Tarpon Point in three buildings for an average price of $1 million a unit. One building sold out in just two hours.

But Hensley's spectacular run ended just as dramatically when the market collapsed. The Dutch lenders backing Hensley's Tarpon Point and several other developments in Lee County filed one of the region's largest foreclosures totaling $340 million.

In 2007, Hensley knew he was taking a gamble with the condo hotel at Tarpon Point, telling a reporter “if the market is not back in three years we're all in trouble.”

He was indeed the bravest developer.

 

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