Commission Approves Hotel and Resort Villas for Bradenton Golf Course | Eastern County
At the May 5 Land Use Meeting, Manatee County Commissioners gave unanimous approval to the Heritage Harbor Golf Resort and Lodge, paving the way for the ambitious project to proceed.
Mark Bruce, the club’s managing partner, announced in January 2020 plans to build villas and a lodge that would fill a void in the area’s lack of “stay-and-play” golf courses. The project would cover 15 acres and would essentially be located where the No. 1 and No. 2 holes currently run along the River Heritage Boulevard and Heritage Green Way.
In October 2021, Bruce introduced ResClub as a development partner in the construction of Heritage Harbor Golf Resort and Lodge. The plan had changed slightly to allow people to own or rent time in furnished vacation villas or lodge suites.
Commissioners were impressed with the project, which was designed to inject much needed funds into the Heritage Harbor golf course which was in need of improvements.
“I’ve been on this council for 10 years, and I can only remember one other time when something came up in front of this council when everyone in the crowd was in favor of the project,” the commissioner said. Vanessa Baugh, who now represents Heritage Harbour. in its District 5 due to redistricting. “It’s an exciting project, and I can’t wait to see it.”
Hotel, villas on the way
Approvals at the land use meeting were for a 100-room hotel and 74 villas. The excitement around the project is evident as 24 of the 30 semi-detached villas in the first phase have already been booked. Bruce said if construction goes according to plan, people could start staying at the villas in the second half of 2023.
Twenty of the 74 villas will belong to the ResClub. These will be available for seasonal rental while the other villas will be for purchase as a seasonal residence or as an investment property.
“PGA professionals all start their careers in golf dreaming of winning big tournaments,” Bruce said. “As a member of the PGA for 25 years, I certainly have no chance of winning a major championship, but this accomplishment certainly feels like it.”
Bruce said the course opened in 2001 as Stoneybrook and changed its name to Heritage Harbor Golf Club in 2018.
“When it first opened in 2001, it was the talk of the town,” Bruce said. “In 2018, he was on life support.”
Bruce was trying to find a way to generate revenue that would invest in the course to bring it back up to championship level. The process is about to begin.
The course will be closed from May 2 through November 1 as a $2 million renovation takes place.
Architect of chosen course
Landscape and golf course architect Nick Campanelli, 38, of Glastonbury, Connecticut, was chosen for the design work. The original architect, Arthur Hills, died on May 18, 2021.
“When this course was first opened it was designed to be spectacular,” said Bruce. “He had big, deep bunkers that would penalize the golfer for a bad shot. That doesn’t bode well for ordinary golfers.”
Bruce wanted to find an architect that would allow Hill’s original design to live on and be recognizable, but he also needed a design that would accommodate a modern level of championship play while being friendly to the resort golfer. .
“We wanted to go with an up-and-coming architect with new ideas,” Bruce said. “We needed someone who had the ability to see how every player would see a hole – women, children, good players and bad players.”
That person was Campanelli, who found out about the project because his parents were renting a house in the area and they had heard about the project.
“I tend not to follow the mold,” Campanelli said. “I’m focusing on strategy and gameplay. And it won’t be a punitive design.”
With the resort golfer in mind and five tee complexes on each hole, Campanelli designed a renovation that would remove the equivalent of 50 bunkers from the course and allow recreational golfers to make more use of the ground instead of being forced to aiming their shots while in the air.
It also lost 300 meters of the length of the old design because the construction of the villas and the complex would be located approximately where the No. 1 and No. 2 holes were.
The course will now have five par 5s, six par 3s and seven par 4s.
Bruce fell in love with Campanelli’s design as soon as he submitted it.
“Nick did a fantastic job of protecting the natural integrity of the design, but he changed the penalty aspect.”
The course, which was a par 72 in the past, will be a par 71. It will be played 6,900 meters from the back tees.
“Honestly, it was perfect,” Bruce said. “And it will be just as difficult.”
Bruce said he offered the job to Campanelli, with the agreement that he could have a say in the final design.
“I’ve played all over the US and on dozens of the UK’s greatest courses,” Bruce said. “So let me have 15% in. He did.”
Campanelli said the bunkers will always be in play, but if beginner golfers land there, they’re not so difficult that it’s going to ruin their game.
The excitement grows
Of course, the golf aspect is only part of the project. ResClub CEO Craig Williamson is enthusiastic about the complex side of the project.
“We fully intend to be sold before the end of the year,” Williamson said. “We are about to launch (similar projects) in eight cities.”
Williamson praised Bruce for guiding the project through the permitting and planning stages without a hitch.
“The team here has done a fantastic job, step by step,” he said. “You always expect to get the hiccups, but Mark didn’t. Anything the guy says he will do, he does. It’s very rare.”
Williamson said in October that he had been involved in the timeshare and vacation club industry for more than 20 years and wanted to “build a better mousetrap.”
“We are the anti-timeshare,” he said. “This industry is always predatory. I had a lot of sleepless nights because we were putting a lot of people in this industry and it wasn’t good money management. That’s the evolution of it.”
Williamson said participation in ResClub generates a revenue stream.
He said an explosion in the number of vacation rental properties like VRBO and Air BnB has made the market ripe for ResClub.
Bruce said the timeline has not been set for the project. He estimated that the hotel/resort would be inaugurated in 2023 and would be open in early 2025.
In September, Bruce said golf course packages will be offered to the public.
“There will be a variety of offers for membership and for everyday play,” he said. “We will always have an open door to the public.”
He said residents of Heritage Harbor will have a myriad of opportunities to play golf.
Heritage Harbor currently has 3,770 homes and will have 5,074 when built.