After a proposed partnership with BTW Investments to make as much as $5 million in needed improvements at the 97-year-old club fell through, the city’s Parks & Recreation department will now assume management after a lease with the current operator, Coral Gables Grand LLC, expires on April 30. City officials expressed optimism about the club’s future under municipal management. “We can recapture the essence of what the club was and should always be—the heart and soul of our community,” said Commissioner Kirk Menendez. “I think the city [has] an opportunity to do something special that will outlive us all.”
After a deal for a partnership with BTW Investments fell through, The Coral Gables (Fla.) Country Club will now be run by the city of Coral Gables’ Parks and Recreation Department, Miami Today reported.
On January 25th, commissioners voted for the city to become new operator of the 97-year-old club after the lease by the current tenant, Coral Gables Grand, LLC, expires on April 30, 2022, Miami Today reported.
“There will be a smooth transition with [Parks & Recreation Director Fred Couceyro],” Coral Gables Mayor Vince Lago said in announcing the city’s takeover of the club. “I have incredible faith and confidence in [Couceyro’s] department, as you can see by the work that they’re doing at the parks lately over the last few years and the upgrades and everything they’ve done with the literacy festival [and] expansion of the farmers market. I can only say good things about [the] department [and] the good things [it is] doing.
“I have extreme faith and competence along with this commission that the transition will be smooth— maybe a little bumpy, but you know we’re going to get it,” the mayor added.
The city will now try on its own to restore a better country-club atmosphere at the property, by pursuing a plan to enhance the club’s pool, tennis courts, gym and existing café, City Manager Peter Iglesias said
The initial proposal from BTW Investments was to put roughly $5 million upfront towards those improvements through a partnership, Miami Today reported. “We do not get the $4 million to $5 million upfront, but we have to budget for it now over the next few years,” Mayor Lago said.
In March 2021, the city decided to cut ties with Coral Gables CC’s current operator, Coral Gables Grand, after only 10 years, Miami Today reported.
Coral Grand was notified that the city would not renew its ten-year lease agreement to operate the club due to failure to pay rent for April 2020 and to pay percentage rent from October 2017 to September 30, 2018, and October 1, 2018, through September 30, 2019, which violates the initial lease, according to a nonrenewal letter the city sent to the club’s operators.
C+RB reported in October 2020 on Coral Grand’s attempts to renegotiate the lease agreement and obtain relief for payments that had not made and other conditions that had not been met, citing the adverse effects that had been imposed on the club by the pandemic (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/coral-gables-fla-cc-seeks-rent-relief-to-offset-postponed-events/)
In January 2021, the city commission approved a deferred payment plan under which Coral Grand would pay rent in full for August and September 2020 and 50% for October, November and December, totaling $95,650.31, Miami Today reported. Operators acknowledged being in default for failure to pay rent due August 1, 2020, saying they were impacted significantly by the pandemic, which was another violation of the lease agreement.
After numerous conversations with Coral Grand, which included its submittal of a March proposal, the tenant engaged legal counsel, Miami Today reported. In June 2021, the city and the tenant’s attorneys reached a settlement to conclude an extended operator period effective through April 30, 2022.
In anticipation of a need to change operators and accelerate improvement of the club, the city’s Procurement Division requested proposals in April 2021, to which BTW Investments was the only respondent, for tenancy and operation of the country club, through which any proposer would make initial improvements of no less than $4.5 million, agree to a base rent of $360,000 per year, escalating 3% for each leasing year thereafter, and propose percentage rent participation based on gross revenues, Miami Today reported. The city would consider an initial 15-year lease, with two additional five-year options.
In July of 2021, the city staff determined that BTW Investments’ proposal was “nonresponsive,” because it did not meet the minimum requirements, Miami Today reported.
So far, the city has already spent around $2.4 million on the building’s roof and the air conditioning, according to Iglesias. “I am working with the finance director to budget as much as we can,” he said.
Commissioner Kirk R. Menendez also sought to put a positive spin on the announcement that the city would now take over operation of the club, Miami Today reported. “I think this is exactly what the community needs for us as a city to go in the right direction,” Menendez said. “Clearly, the country club is a community jewel, just like the youth center, just like the Venetian Pool.”
“I trust our community recreation team,” Menendez added. ‘They really are doing a great job like the mayor said, and their hearts are in the right place.”
“We can recapture the essence of what the country club was and should always be—the heart and soul of our community,” Menendez said. “And it’s going to be in the best possible hands to protect and preserve what is important to all of us. I think it’s a great day for the city commission to have this opportunity to do something special that will outlive us all.”