Will Robinson, a go-to attorney for land use and other real estate law in Manatee County, says being a lawyer to him is about the end result, not the argument.
That’s how Robinson approached one of his more recent high-profile cases, the redevelopment of the Manatee River Hotel in downtown Bradenton, long called the Pink Palace for its color. Robinson represented the developer, Syracuse, N.Y.-based Widewaters Group. The firm planned to convert the deserted 86-year-old building into a 115-room Hampton Inn & Suites, a $17 million project.
Robinson’s role in the case was to guide Widewaters through the city of Bradenton’s incentive programs. That involved a lot of public meetings, debates and compromises. Widewaters ultimately received more than $1 million in incentives for the project in 2011.
“It was a very long process,” says Robinson, “but I’m very proud of the work I was able to provide on that deal.”
The onetime chairman of the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority, Robinson is from a family of entrepreneurs and business leaders. His grandfather, H.L. “Robby” Robinson, and his uncle, H.L. “Penny” Robinson, founded Robby’s Sporting Goods in Bradenton in the 1960s. That chain grew to become one of the largest athletic retailers in the country, with 49 stores and $70 million in annual sales. Will Robinson’s father, Bill Robinson, helped grow that company, now Champs Sports, through its sale to the Woolworth Co., in 1988.
Bill Robinson and Will Robinson’s brother, Parks Robinson, now run Fit2Run, another fast-growing athletic apparel business with more than 10 locations in Florida. Yet Will Robinson, an avid runner who plans to run in the 2015 Boston Marathon, says law is where his passion lies.
“It’s an extreme honor for someone to come to me for advice,” says Robinson. “They look to me to provide good advice on getting to their goal.”
— Mark Gordon
City of residence: Bradenton
Twitter handle: @will_robinsonjr
Years on the Gulf Coast: All my life, except for one year, where I clerked for a federal judge in Ocala.
Marital status/children: Single, no children
Alma mater: University of Notre Dame (undergrad) /Stetson University College of Law (law)
Best place to network: O’Bricks in downtown Bradenton
Coolest business experience: I have been involved in thousands of real estate closings over my career, but the ones that involve a new homeowner taking title to their very first home because of their efforts with Manatee County Habitat for Humanity are very emotional and extremely satisfying to me. I always look forward to seeing the sheer joy the new homeowner shows, usually with many family members, after I am honored to say “Congratulations, you are a homeowner.”
The most important business lesson I’ve learned: My father taught me, in business or in life, to always tell the truth and work hard. I try to use those two simple principles in everything I do. Most, if not all, of the failures I have had in my life have been because I did not follow one or both of these principles. I always keep them in mind.
One website that makes your job easier: leg.fl.us/statutes (need quick access to Florida law!)
One community group you’re most involved with: I am the Chair of Meals on Wheels Plus of Manatee (MOWP), an organization near and dear to my heart. I chose to become involved with MOWP so I could have a bigger impact in our community’s fight against hunger. I am proud of the accomplishments MOWP has made over the years, and I look forward to the many more that will come.
Favorite off-hours activity: Either watching my beloved Irish, Bucs or Rays or training for my next triathlon or road race.
Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: My late grandfather, Jack Hale, and the late former President Ronald Reagan. Both men greatly inspired me early on in my life and were true gentlemen, who unfortunately, died of the same terrible disease. I would like to ask them how they think I am doing so far.
Best award you ever received: While I may have peaked too early, I received the best student award at King Middle School. Seriously and while technically not an award, attaining Board Certification in Real Estate Law from The Florida Bar was a top achievement for me, given the rigorous exam and peer review.
Most adventurous thing you’ve ever done: Running a 50-mile ultra-marathon through the mountains of Virginia, with about 3 weeks of training or being interviewed for ABC’s The Bachelor several years ago. Both were equally painful, but adventurous.
What’s at the top of your bucket list: Doing some sort of race in all 50 states. I am up to six, with Georgia (Ironman 70.3 Augusta) next! I will be running the Boston Marathon in 2015.