Via CIA, military intelligence, Naples hotelier leaves next week with $156 million
Phil McCabe has surprised me in at least two ways over the past few days.
Of course, he’s selling one of his “greatest passions”, the iconic Inn on Fifth. Yeah, that was the first wowsa.
But the second: the strong, lively guy has been at it on Earth since shortly after the end of the Second World War.
As a Military Intelligence Officer for the Air Force. As a member of the ICA. As a founder and investor of hotels and other businesses in his native New England and locally, where he played a major role in transforming Fifth Avenue South into a luxury destination known around the world.
He doesn’t seem to have taken his foot off the accelerator so far.
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“It’s been a fast and furious time in my life, and an exhausting one at times,” McCabe said, after I asked him what prompted the deal. “Unfortunately my time in life is running out, I will be 75 in a matter of days. Due to the age factor, I have made one of the toughest decisions of my career.”
Maybe the $156 million softened the blow a bit, right?
“The decision to sell was also based on a host of other factors in addition to age, such as the overall real estate market,” said McCabe, founder, owner and chief executive. “We had the enviable position of many national companies wanting to own the hotel as an asset and bidding up the price.”
“Closed on May 11”
The Pebblebrook Hotel Trust transaction crosses the finish line much faster than originally expected.
In nine days, his race ends on Wednesday after the Kentucky Derby. Depending on which horses end up starting, he might be looking for Golden Glider, Rich Strike, or Smile Happy.
“A May 11 shutdown will be a sad day for me in many ways, but then a life-changing and exciting day in many other ways,” said McCabe, who plans to “slow down” but whose company with his sons, Joseph and Philip, will continue to monitor potential investments. “I hate to give up my passion, but unfortunately age does not allow me to continue to manage day-to-day operations, a responsibility that is literally seven days a week.”
As he notes, “A hotel never closes.”
And that’s how it’s been for McCabe in the quarter-century since he launched his downtown palace, minus the pauses during the renovations needed to compete with high-class beauties and their bunks at the edge of the gulf which we will talk about more soon.
“It has been 25 wonderful years building the hotel into an iconic four-star, four-diamond gem, all with the help of incredible managers and staff. As General Manager of the hotel for these many years , my days were never boring, my love for the job never wavers,” he said, confident of the new owners. “Pebblebrook would be the best managers of my amazing staff, the people I love, people who have made me successful over the years.”
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Good timing from Maryland-based Pebblebrook, which already operates LaPlaya Beach Resort & Club as part of a coast-to-coast 53-destination portfolio.
McCabe’s 119-room lodge last week received a four-star rating for the ninth straight year from Forbes Travel Guide, which has been awarding such honors since 1958.
This is not given to any accommodation. Only three in southwest Florida have this ranking, the others being the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples and the Ritz in Sarasota.
No others on this coast 500 miles from here in Panama City Beach.
Constantly renovating pays off
And that must make McCabe even dizzier, given his competition.
He was constantly renovating the old bank and adjoining property, burning around $1 million a year, and in 2019 he poured some $5 million in sugar into it.
On average, hoteliers will update their places about every seven years, according to accommodation renovator Interserv.
The Inn on Fifth’s $5 million renovations
Phil McCabe, owner of The Inn on Fifth, talks about renovations to the hotel.
Alex Driehaus, Naples Daily News
And I’m like, man, what gives? McCabe just pointed to the Gulf of Mexico, 650 yards from his approximately two acres.
It had to stay ahead of the shiny resorts that arguably have the greatest amenities in Southwest Florida.
“You have to justify the expenses,” McCabe said. These are loyal customers who “see the investments”.
And sometimes those investments, in the form of those relatively tiny McCabe plots, can provide huge returns. Like $156 million.
Consider that the considerably larger 125-acre gulf property that made up the Naples Beach Hotel sold for $362 million last year.
The new owners aren’t done spending money on the Four Seasons and the new resort where work began in late April. Based on a similar project in Fort Lauderdale, at least another $200 million won’t come as a surprise. Completion is scheduled for the end of 2024.
Arrival: Lots of rooms in hostels
And these are just a few of the many hotel projects, purchases and improvements underway in Southwest Florida. Here is a sample:
► At the busiest crossroads in the city of Naples, just up the road from McCabe, an AC Marriott is going up, with completion scheduled for late 2023.
► A former 1986 McCabe property, the Inn of Naples, two miles north of Coastland Center off US 41, sold March 15, with a purchase price of $15.3 million. It joins the Hilton chain, which should start taking reservations on its site in July. Incidentally, a 10,000 square foot Bahama Breeze restaurant project in Coastland received preliminary approval from the city’s design review board last week.
► Moving on, Downtown Fort Myers Hotel Indigo also underwent a similar Hilton change which is supposed to officially end by summer as The Hotel Banyan.
► The Lee County government considered a 131-room Hampton Inn in the Bell Tower area of US 41 and Daniels Road, adjacent to Homewood Suites.
► In March, the former Registry Resort, known today as Naples Grande Beach Resort, was part of a $248 million deal on Seagate Drive north of Naples near Clam Pass Park.
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And: To wit: updates on several malls in North Naples; McCabe reopens hotel
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► The Tamiami Trail and Davis Boulevard area is set to open The Ellington, a 10-story, 125-room hotel topped with 24 chic condos by the end of 2023.
► Other major projects or updates in Southwest Florida include Margaritaville on Fort Myers Beach, the Ritz Carlton on Vanderbilt Beach, and the Great Wolf Lodge on I-75, not far from the toll to enter the Everglades.
You can find out more about these and more by going to the In the Know page at naplesnews.com/news/in-the-know or searching for the hotel name at naplesnews.com.
Question from the reader about the 3rd Street project
Napoli Reader Nancy Garfinkel and I have gone back and forth a dozen times over a question she’s been asking me since 2019 that thousands of you have also asked in your inquiries and on social networks. She checked in with me before April and said goodbye
“Again, just ask about the deal to build the boutique hotel on 3rd.”
And she finally got the news she was hoping to hear.
Indeed, while she loved the green space after the dismantling of the dilapidated Third Street Plaza at Gordon Drive and Broad Street, the hot and cold Old Naples Hotel project would be back.
“I hope so,” said Garfinkel, no longer disappointed. “That will be an asset.”
A new partnership has been created, and this time it involves a powerhouse in the accommodation industry: Ocean Properties Hotels & Resorts.
One of Florida’s largest operators, its powerful portfolio consists of more than 125 hotels and 19,000 rooms in approximately 15 states.
Construction is expected to begin later this year, with completion slated for early 2024.
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In May 2018, the city council approved the redevelopment project, reminiscent of Naples’ historic hotel and its iconic dome.
The old inn opened in 1889 and operated for nearly 90 years. So Garfinkel and the rest of us have been waiting for a replacement for a while.
Based at the Naples Daily News, columnist Phil Fernandez ([email protected]) writes In the Know as part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. Support democracy and subscribe to a newspaper.