Helmsley Sandcastle on Lido is sold; will stay as hotel

Ocean Properties Ltd., which operates a handful of resorts in Southwest Florida including the Longboat Key Club, said it has acquired the Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Delray Beach-based hotelier has also has given the property a new name: the Sandcastle Resort at Lido Beach.

The $4 billion charitable trust that previously owned the Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel hired a commercial brokerage in early December to list the property, part of a plan to shed millions of dollars’ worth of real estate holdings nationwide.

But because CBRE directly marketed the 6-acre site for its luxury condominium potential, area tourism officials had feared they would lose one of the most popular hotels among European travelers, who tend to spend more than domestic tourists during their stay.

“We are over the moon,” said Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County. “We were so worried this was going to be purchased for teardown and condos. The Helmsley is the way so many international travelers first reach our shores. The thought we could lose that had us pretty upset.”

The Helmsley Sandcastle is one of the oldest beachfront hotels in Southwest Florida, with a previous ownership history that includes a multimillionaire Maltese lapdog that belonged to the late American businesswoman Leona Helmsley.

The 50-year-old Helmsley buildings — and its 600-foot private beach — are adjacent to the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota’s Beach Club at 1540 Benjamin Franklin Drive.

Built in 1953, the 177-room Sandcastle Hotel was long owned by New York billionaires Harry and Leona Helmsley.

Leona Helmsley, a real estate tycoon dubbed “The Queen of Mean” by the New York media, left the Lido hotel to her dog when she died in 2007. The furry white pup named Trouble lived at the Sandcastle with a personal bodyguard for several years, until it died in 2011 – sending ownership back to the $4 billion Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

With the trust aggressively attempting to shed its real estate portfolio, many local tourism marketers feared a looming deal for the property would remove coveted beachfront hotel rooms from a market that already is underserved by their reckoning — and at a time when tourism is booming to record highs.

It is unclear if the new owners plan any renovations for property.

Ocean Properties owns more than 100 resorts including the Resort at Longboat Key Club, Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort, Lido Beach Resort and Holiday Inn Lido Beach.

“This purchase reflects the long-term commitment of ownership to the local community and the substantial investment that will continue to support economic development for the region,” said Andy Berger, Ocean’s vice president of operations, in a statement.

When the Sandcastle Hotel first hit the market in early December, the listing brokerage highlighted the land’s potential for as many as 108 multi-family residences.

Given the area’s demand for new housing, and a supply of existing condos that has shrunk to decade-lows, most industry observers assumed a condo conversion was imminent.

Article source: http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20140212/article/140219909

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