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Owners seek approval for historic South Seas resort redevelopment plan

The owners of the Captiva Island resort have filed redevelopment plans with Lee County for a project that will include two new hotels at the famed tourist destination.

  • By Louis Llovio
  • | 10:15 a.m. December 20, 2023
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
The owners of South Seas are planning a major redevelopment of the historic tourist destination.
The owners of South Seas are planning a major redevelopment of the historic tourist destination.
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The owners of South Seas on Captiva Island have released details on its plans to remake the resort and have begun the long process of winning government approval.

The South Seas Ownership Group says the planned redevelopment of the 330-acre property long known as the South Seas Island Resort “maintains the historic character and coastal charm that defines Captiva Island while modernizing the property to enhance the guest experience.”

The plans include the development of up to 272 residential units in several new waterfront condominium buildings and the construction of two new hotels. The north hotel will have 185 to 225 rooms, replacing the former Harborside Hotel, which was damaged beyond repair during Hurricane Ian. And the south hotel will have 180 to 210 room and replace the former conference center which was also damaged by Ian.

As for how when the construction will begin and how long it will take, that is not known yet. The project must first get zoning approval and plans were just filed with Lee County a few days ago, a spokesperson says.

The cost of the project was also not disclosed, but the spokesperson says the “total investment in resort improvements will reach the high nine figures” and that “the project is funded through private equity including a pension fund.”

South Seas has been a tourist destination since 1946 and takes up about a third of the northern tip of Captiva Island. It includes hotels, condominiums and homes on 2.5 miles of beaches.

The current ownership group — which is made up of Timbers Co., Wheelock Street Capital and the Ronto Group — bought the historic property Sept. 30, 2021, saying at the time that its goal was “to elevate the guest experience with expanded services and amenities while working on future plans to reimagine and restore the famed South Seas Island Resort to its original grandeur.”

But just two days shy of the one-year anniversary of the purchase, Sept. 28, 2022, Hurricane Ian hit, devastating the resort. Shortly after the storm hit the group, said in a letter to the state announcing layoffs that the resort “was severely impacted by the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian, resulting in the cessation of resort operations for the foreseeable future.”

The plans for the redevelopment address concerns raised by the hurricane. Structures going up on the property, the ownership group says, will be built or rebuilt up to 45 feet “above the minimum permittable habitable floor, mirroring the existing outlying suburban height restriction, and include up to three stories over parking or commercial space.”

And new structures will be built to withstand 185-mph winds and have flood protection.

In a presentation that is part of a redevelopment information session, the ownership group says the update is needed because “the resort was in decline for 20 years prior to our purchase due to aging structures, dated amenities and lack of investment by prior resort owner.”

The resort was previously owned by The Blackstone Group, which bought the property in 2006.



Louis Llovio

Louis Llovio is the deputy managing editor at the Business Observer. Before going to work at the Observer, the longtime business writer worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Maryland Daily Record and for the Baltimore Sun Media Group. He lives in Tampa.

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