Expert Views on Renovation and Expansion
January 22, 2016
The world’s marina infrastructure is ageing and new sites for marinas are difficult to acquire and permit. At the same time, the market for marina slips has evolved toward larger boats, a high-quality living environment inside the marina, signature architectural style and more services and amenities. Operators of older marinas will inevitably face an inflection point, the moment when the marina is outdated or the docks are in disrepair and the potential revenue opportunity from a renovation or expansion is more compelling than staying the course.
New marinas are being built, but the trend in established markets is toward renovation and expansion of existing marinas. On behalf of Marina World, Robert Wilkes convened a virtual round table of USA-based experts to give their top-of-mind ideas to help others contemplating a renovation.
Robert Wilkes (RW): You’ve all renovated an existing marina, or provided professional services to projects. What advice do you have to those about to do the same?
Jim Bronstien, owner of consulting firm Marine Business Advisors and developer and operator of major marinas and shipyards around the world:
We’ve just taken over an operating agreement for a large marina that’s out of date. First, I’d say you have to learn the market in your area. Are you a destination and do you have special attractions? Do you have ease of access? Are you limited by bridges or depth? What are the trends in your specific area, what is the competition, what is recent demand like? If you’re thinking about attracting large yachts, do you understand the costs of building slips for them? In the end, it’s a bit of math, a bit of science and a bit of gut instinct.
RW: What advice do you have about design and engineering?
Jim Bronstien: Make sure that all the people involved in designing a marina know how to operate a marina. You could have very competent engineers and builders, but it’s not enough. You need people familiar with marinas. I’ve seen marinas with the wrong power at some slips, with slips positioned incorrectly for the current and winds, with fender piles and pump-outs in the wrong places, with power pedestals and dock boxes blocking access for carts, especially golf carts, to negotiate corners, and with poorly thought out slip mixes. It’s a lot of little things and sadly, some big ones. They might be excellent engineers and builders, but they often lose sight of what it takes to run a marina.
Chris Dolan, manager and marina designer at Marina Electrical Equipment, Williamsburg, VA:
Boats today use twice the power compared to 15 years ago. So, when renovating or expanding, work with the local utility companies to ensure they can provide enough power for the marina you intend to build. Also, be very careful about what codes you’re operating under. States and localities are adopting different codes at different times. One locality may be using an older code while the locality next to them has changed to an updated code. Be sure you know what version governs your site. Other than the robustness of power needed for your renovated marina, the next decision is how much ground fault interruption (leakage) protection to install and how distributed it will be. The more distributed the devices, the safer the marina, but the more costly it is to install. Unfortunately, small or family owned marinas on fresh water need the most protection but are often less able to absorb the cost.
Bob Christoph, founder and chairman of Miami Beach based RCI Group, developer, owner and operator of marinas in Michigan, Indiana, Florida, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
I agree with Jim Bronstien about planning for the future. We like to design a renovation or expansion for the market 20 to 25 years from now. In that much time we’ve seen boat lengths increase 200% and beams increase 30% to 50%. Anticipate what the neighbourhood in your location will look like in 25 years and how that will affect your market potential. How will higher real estate values change the demand for slips? What will be the demand for electrical power?
Deliver a user-friendly product. Look at the site and don’t fight nature. Position boats fore and aft to wind and current, not side to side. Provide protection from the elements and a smooth ride in the berths.
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