Safe Harbor Marinas, which says it is the largest owner and operators of marinas in the world, wants to lease and operate the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina, the largest marina in the region.
The unsolicited proposal, submitted in February, was made public this week by the city’s real estate and property management department. The city has issued a legal notice of intent to lease the property and is seeking alternative proposals.
If the city moves forward with a lease for the Municipal Marina, it would be the latest in series of public-private partnerships that also include the Mahafffey Theater, Al Lang Field, Tropicana Field and the Manhattan Casino, among others, said Mario Farias, managing member of the Farias Consulting Group, a St. Petersburg company that’s working with Safe Harbor. Farias also is involved in the Manhattan Casino partnership.
“The key to public-private partnerships is you are getting a company to come in and say, we believe in the vision you have. We can just manage it more efficiently,” Farias said.
The Municipal Marina, adjacent to the St. Pete Pier, has about 660 boat slips, including the 104-slip St. Petersburg Yacht Club in its Central Basin, and the 74-slip Vinoy Marina in its North Basin. It was built in the 1960s and needs modernization to continue effectively serving the boating population, according to a master plan developed in November 2017.
Safe Harbor leases The Harborage Marina at Bayboro in St. Petersburg, a 340-slip marina at 1110 3rd St. S. in St. Petersburg. That lease was the catalyst for its proposal to operate the Municipal Marina, Safe Harbor’s proposal said.
“We feel [Safe Harbor] is uniquely positioned to help [the city] achieve such a renovation all while providing [the city] the premium first class facility they deserve and allowing [the city] to reallocate funding to other critical projects of near term importance,” the proposal said.
Safe Harbor’s proposal calls for the company to commit the needed capital for the renovations, in return for a five-year initial lease term, with the option to extend that to 30 or more years. Safe Harbor would have the right to set rates for wet slip rentals, with rate hikes capped at 12 percent annually once renovations have begun. Safe Harbor would pay rent to the city, with the rent equal to 15 percent of the annual gross revenue collected by Safe Harbor through the operation of the marina. The company also plans to offer jobs to the existing management and staff at the marina.
Safe Harbor, based in Dallas, owns more than 80 marinas — including its most recent purchase, Pier 77 in Bradenton — and leases many others, Farias said.
“Because they manage and run efficiently, they’ve been able to maximize services and minimize the investments. So when you are talking about owning 80 plus marinas, you’ve got huge buying power. What would cost the city $47 million, will cost [Safe Harbor] $30 million because everything is in house,” Farias said.
Weatherford Capital, a private equity firm in Tampa, is an equity investor in Safe Harbor. Weatherford Capital’s managing partner is Will Weatherford, former Florida House Speaker.
The city will take alternative proposals for the Municipal Marina until 10 a.m. June 7.