Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel, home to the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS), has announced that it will be undergoing a $7.5 million redesign and refurbishment. This project is the first step in a long-term business plan that hopes to reinvigorate the Bahia Mar area and bring it in line with the ultra-high-net-worth individuals that frequent the Bahia Mar marina and utilise the wealth of yachting expertise in the area. This news follows the announcement that Bahia Mar has become a foreign trade zone and that FLIBS, now under the ownership of Informa Exhibitions, has signed a long-term lease with Bahia Mar.

“What we are doing currently is investing around $7.5 million in the hotel towers to renovate the building in order to bring up the quality and status of the hotel so that the guests can continue to enjoy the experience,” says James Tate, Bahia Mar co-owner and CEO of Tate Capital. “The property is old and tired and in need of modernising.”

Expected to be completed in mid-October, the renovation will improve the buildings guestrooms, common areas and meeting spaces. However, with long-term plans in place to demolish the hotel in its entirety, it has led some to questions the necessity of a short-term renovation plan.

“Some people have suggested that we are throwing good money away,” continues Tate. “We don’t see it that way. We consider the renovation of the hotel as a means of preserving the value of the brand, as well as improving the guest experience. If we can keep guests happy for 4-5 years, it will be much easier to roll out a new product.”

There has, in previous been years, been large scale plans to renovate the Bahia Mar area. However, the last attempt to do so was met with resistance from the city, which didn’t approve of the two large residential towers that had been proposed, as well as being stymied by fractious negotiations with the previous owners of FLIBS. As a result, the amended project was deemed to be financially unviable.

“What we tried to do before and what we will try to do again is make this (Bahia Mar) an epicentre or yachting activity, fun, sun, living and marina life. There will be hotels, a commercial district open to the public, a waterway, boardwalk, restaurants, a marina village, park, promenades and plenty of recreational areas,” explains Tate. “Fortunately for us, Informa acquired Show Management and, therefore, FLIBS, and their vision for the future of FLIBS correlates with our vision for the area.”

It is this correlation of ideals that has led to the Marine Industries Association of South Florida and Informa Exhibitions signing a new 30-year lease extension with Bahia Mar. This lease ensures that FLIBS will be kept at Bahia Mar facility for the foreseeable future, with two additional 10-year extension options available that could see the show remain at Bahia Mar for 50 years.

“Currently we are working closely with the city’s development review committee staff to receive the necessary entitlements to develop the property,” continues Tate. “We are working with the Koby Karp architectural practice, which has done a magnificent job of bring Floridian charm and resort style community back to Bahia Mar’s future.”

Tate explains that without FLIBS the entire project could be completed in six-to-seven years. But, because of the boat show it is likely that the renovation will take around 10 years, given that for two months of every year Bahia Mar falls under the auspices of the FLIBS team. However, he is quick to caveat this by reinforcing that FLIBS is the feather in Bahia Mar’s cap and by highlighting that Informa has already made a number of significant investments in the show and that 2017 should see FLIBS taken to the next level. Bahia Mar’s short-term renovations are expected to be complete in time for FLIBS 2017. 

Tate also reveals that Tate Capital is currently on the market to invest in additional marina infrastructure in the local area.