Next generation of marinas emerging

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It used to be that marinas were to boats what parking lots were to cars. Not anymore. Marinas are destinations now, exclusive clubs.

It used to be that marinas were to boats what parking lots were to cars. Not anymore. Marinas are destinations now, exclusive clubs. They are high-tech, environmentally controlled and hurricane-resistant. Usually they are dry-stacks, where slips are for sale, not for rent.

Today’s developers tout their marinas for their luxurious ambiance, yet their neighbors seldom are impressed. As welcome as a Wal-

Mart, even luxury marinas are lightning rods for local controversy.

The soaring cost of waterfront is driving the trend to dry-stacks, which pile the most boats possible on the smallest amount of land.

Selling slips — or variations on that theme — offers a profitable return on the big upfront investment in property. Scott Miller, a partner in NewSmyrnaYachtHarbour, a marina in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., and the latest addition to the Yacht Clubs of America chain, says slip ownership and the club environment are the wave of the future.

Andrew Sturner, CEO of Aqua Marine Partners LLC, developer of Vertical Yacht Club Thunder Alley in Aventura, Fla., is starting a chain of luxury dry-stacks that offer lifetime memberships that can be sold or passed on to surviving kin as an inheritance.

Slips or memberships in New Smyrna and Thunder Alley start at $90,000 to $130,000. Sturner will use a laser-guided overhead crane to slip boats in and out of dry-stack to minimize hull dings.

Fort Lauderdale recently OKed The Harborage Club, a 340-slip dry-stack with rooftop swimming pool and club, but The Sails, a hotel-marina-retail project proposed on Lauderdale’s 17th Street is still fighting neighborhood opposition. Both of these projects are contingent on state approval of a manatee protection plan for Fort Lauderdale and surrounding BrowardCounty. Without the plan, one of Florida’s biggest boating counties remains under a three-year de facto moratorium on new-slip construction. In a time of growing environmental consciousness, marina construction in most Florida coastal counties goes nowhere without adequate provision for protecting manatees, sea grasses, water and other resources.