QUAIL WEST IS DOING FINE
Developer's bankruptcy has no effect on Quail West, since it is mostly association owned now.
The two championship Arthur Hills golf courses are open. The golf shop is fully stocked. The resort-style clubhouse is busy with activities, from bridge games and bocce to dinner dances and wine tastings. The clay tennis courts are ready for play.
Inside the clubhouse, the fitness center offers its usual classes, from Pilates to yoga. The salon still pampers members with massages and pedicures.
Though its most recent developer has fallen on hard times, not much else has changed at the high-end North Naples community with multimillion-dollar estate homes on oversized lots. Home prices are anywhere from $1.5 million to more than $10 million.
Two weeks ago, affiliates of developer Ginn Cos. based in Celebration in Central Florida, filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy petitions related to investments made in two high-end communities: Tesoro in St. Lucie and Quail West.
The bankruptcy filings came after Ginn-LA defaulted on $675 million in debt owed on four of its communities in June. The other two communities are Ginn sur Mer in Grand Bahama Island and Laurelmor in Boone, N.C.
The LA in Ginn-LA stands for Lubert-Adler, a financial partner of Ginn’s, based in Philadelphia.
The filing for Quail West didn’t include the clubhouse, the golf courses or any of the common areas. They are controlled by the Quail West Foundation, the community’s homeowners association, said John Gamba, a foundation board member.
The bankruptcy involves 262 lots in Quail West, beach property off Hickory Boulevard and a sales office that were owned by Ginn-LA, he said.
The sales office is now closed.
The beach property was never developed or used by residents.
The lots are fully developed with water, sewer, electric, cable and telephone lines, and await buyers on nicely paved streets _ a sizeable investment made by Ginn.
“People when they hear bankruptcy, they think the doors are locked, the tees are shut ... That’s just not true at all,” Gamba said.
“This is not a bankrupt community,” he said.
Gamba rattles off the many social activities that the community continues to offer, including couples’ twilight golf, a book club that meets every month and Mah Jongg, a rummy-like game played with tiles rather than cards.
In a way, the filing is a relief to club members and residents.
Ginn is no longer involved in running the community, and there are hopes the bankruptcy will allow the foundation to collect the developer’s delinquent homeowners association fees.
“The association at Quail West is not part of that filing. That entity is still an operating entity,” said Tom O’Brien, a foundation board member.
Homeowners have worked closely with Ginn since July, when the company first missed payments on its loans, to keep the clubhouse and golf courses open and to keep the amenities and services as close to normal as possible, Gamba said.
The trustee for the Chapter 7 case has told residents the priority is to keep the club operating.
In Quail West, there are 355 home sites and lots owned by someone other than Ginn, explained Al Kessel, a foundation board member.
That private investment is valued at more than $750 million, he said.
The club has hundreds of members. No one has pulled out because of the bankruptcy filing, Kessel said.
The foundation has budgeted for a 6 percent drop in its club membership this year, but that is mainly due to the tough economic times and not the bankruptcy, he said.
“This is not the best of times,” Kessel said. “This is the first time we’re looking at a drop-off in six years.”
“We have not had a mass exodus at all,” Gamba said.
There are only 14 permanent club memberships open right now at Quail West.
That’s in part because all of the 262 lots that were owned by Ginn included memberships.
Ginn’s financial struggles have forced cutbacks in staff at the clubhouse and golf courses and in other areas.
Since last fall, the work force has shrunk by about 12 percent, including jobs that haven’t been filled when employees have left on their own, said John Gardner, Quail West’s general manager.
The community still has about 180 employees.
“We don’t have any significant slots that are open,” Gardner said.
Board member O’Brien said the foundation has worked to design a strategy that is proactive, but flexible, to deal with Ginn’s financial woes.
The mantra has been plan for the worst, hope for the best.
“No services have been cut back,” Kessel said.
One way the association is looking to better the situation is to offer trial memberships that require paying dues only, and no membership fee, as a way to increase revenues. The association is also looking at lowering its initiation fee of $175,000 to bring in more members temporarily.
Buyers are still looking at Quail West.
Like everywhere else in Southwest Florida, sales are slow. But there are sales.
Stephen Levitan, a Realtor with Levitan-McQuaid Real Estate Services in Naples who specializes in Quail West, is still showing homes. He lives in Quail West himself.
“We’re alive and very well,” he said.
On Friday, he had two calls to see property in Quail West. He was on site at a majestic four-bedroom, plus den model home built by McGarvey Custom Homes, spanning a total of 8,347 square feet, including an oversized lanai.
It has all the “bells and whistles” including a temperature-controlled wine room and comes fully furnished. It’s listed at $4,885,000.
Not everything with Ginn has been negative, Gamba points out. He estimates the developer spent more than $15 million to renovate the clubhouse.
“They took it down to the studs,” he said.
Ginn also built out the roads and other infrastructure for the remaining lots.
Several models were built to showcase the community to buyers.
Despite the bankruptcy by Ginn, homeowners remain upbeat about Quail West and its success.
“You’ve got a lot of residents in this community that are committed,” Kessel said. “That’s what you need to keep a community going."
QUAIL WEST GOLF + COUNTRY CLUB ( QUAIL WEST FOUNDATION INC )