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TPI-FMB to brand resort with Jimmy Buffett

June 13, 2018
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The island's newest yet-to-be-built resort finally got its official name.

TPI Hospitality announced Friday that its 254-room resort signed an agreement with Margaritaville Enterprises to brand the project: Margaritaville Resort.

The Jimmy Buffett brand is centered around a vacation, casual luxe lifestyle.

"The big word is escapism," said Tom Torgerson, TPI Hospitality developer. "Live life in an island environment, get away from your normal hectic life."

The agreement between Margaritaville and TPI-FMB is for branding purposes only; TPI Hospitality will still own and operate the resort and associated businesses. TPI Hospitality is working with the Margaritaville designers to develop the overall project design and aesthetic; each Margaritaville Resort is designed to be different.

"The design of the resort is important," said John Dammerman, Torgerson's business partner. "We have to appeal to a broad audience. The resort itself will be very unique and attract a lot of people."

Fact Box

Social media says: Facebook reactions to Margaritaville reveal

Mike Wright: The "charm" of FMB has been preserved for decades to come. Hopefully this will encourage existing mainstays to "clean up" and respect our Beach. Congrats TPI-FMB.

Judy Fearman: So away goes the charm of Ft. Myers Beach that we have enjoyed for so many years.

Karen Lingle: Love that concept! Can't wait to enjoy every aspect!

Joanne Yacopino: SOOO PSYCHED!!!!

Laura E. Tonar: Feeling a loss of individuality

The Fort Myers Beach Town Council voted 5-0 to approve the TPI-FMB project May 21. The commercial planned development features the bulk of the resort on the bay side of Estero Boulevard, Crescent Street and Fifth Street. This piece of the project will hold 224 of the rooms in three stories over a parking level on the ground floor. It also features a terrace area, which will be called "License to Chill." Torgerson said this area is aimed to be a fun, relaxed social hang out area, with its own food service, attractive landscaping and island games.

A pedestrian bridge will connect the resort to another 3-floor building on the Gulf side of Estero Boulevard. This building will house a LandShark Bar and Grill on the beach level, which is open to the public and a casual, walk-up atmosphere. The second level features a more up-scale JWB Bar and Grill, also open to the public. The top two floors will house the remaining 30 rooms of the resort.

The "beach club" concept on the Gulfside has been named the LandShark Beach Club. The facility is an amenity for resort guests, but is open to 325 members of the paying public per day. Within the beach club, a 5 o'Clock Somewhere Bar and Grill will be available for beach club users only.

All of the development's restaurants and business entities are the Jimmy Buffet brand - but Torgerson was able to push for one name that will be new to the Margaritaville repertoire.

An open-to-the-public coffee cafe will be located on the second level of the resort, near the entrance of the pedestrian bridge. It will be called the Coconut Telegraph Coffee Shop.

"I had to really lobby for that. This one is new," Torgerson said. "Jimmy Buffett did write a coconut telegraph song."

It's a fitting name: it ties into the brand, but also reflects a common phrase heard on the beach in reference to the spread of rumors on the 7-mile island.

The Margaritaville Resort has a planned opening date of 2021. The brand has 12 lodging locations and more than 60 restaurant venues, but Torgerson said the resort would not feel like a franchise.

"There are no two Margaritaville Resorts that function the same way," he said. "Their DNA is to make every resort an original and reflective of the community."

The JWB restaurant's interior design will specifically reflect the history of Fort Myers Beach and San Carlos Island, Torgerson said, but not just with framed black and white photos. He plans to incorporate some more interesting technology to bring the history to life.

"All their resorts are very high quality but casual at the same time," he said. "More than $1 million is going into creating the design and feeling of the resort. It's anything but a stamp-it-out, cookie-cutter feeling."

Reactions to the brand unveiling have been mixed; many people love the idea, but some feel it's too corporate for the island.

Leah Gregg, one of the founding members of the pro-TPI group 5 Decide, said she thinks the Margaritaville Resort will clean up that area of the island into something beautiful. She's also pleased that the area is getting a product she believes will bring economic stability to the downtown area.

"I think the that a Margaritaville motif is perfect. It fits with our beautiful beach culture and is a brand that's synonymous with low key, relaxing beach vibes," she said. "I really look forward to seeing the final product."

Off-island avenues

While the Fort Myers Beach resort progresses, Torgerson and the TPI Hospitality team are also focusing on an off-island project: an apartment complex to house the resort's workforce.

TPI purchased a property at 17365 San Carlos Boulevard, next to the 7-11 gas station, in May for $2.5 million. Torgerson has a unique idea for the 15-acre property: an affordable place for his resort employees to live. The same property will also serve the resort with 75 off-site parking spaces in case the first-level parking plan is insufficient.

The TPI team is finalizing its market study, which will hold the details, but Torgerson said there will probably be at least 300 units in the complex, and it will have all the amenities of a normal project: a gated community with a club house and a pool.

"It's not a dormitory thing. They're going to have a nice quality of life there," he said.

Depending on the results of the study, TPI-FMB might be able to open up the housing to other island workers, as well. The property is already zoned for commercial use.

TPI Hospitality will subsidize employees' rents based on the number of hours they work at the resort. Torgerson imagines that someone working at the resort full-time could be looking at rents as low as $600 - and rent will be all-inclusive with utilities. The complex's location on San Carlos Boulevard, near public transit and with an employee shuttle to work each day, is "exceptional," Torgerson said.

"A lot of other hotels and resorts have struggled on how to retain employees and make their lives easier," said John Gucciardo, the spokesman for the TPI-FMB project. "This takes it to a whole different level."



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