Hurricane Ian was a wake-up call, said St. Petersburg Yacht Club rear commodore Joe DiVito.
For several years, St. Petersburg Yacht Club leaders discussed options to renovate the century-old downtown facility on Beach Drive. But after the devastation of yacht clubs farther south in the Fort Myers area from the Category 4 storm originally forecast to hit Tampa Bay, DiVito said they had to act.
“Hurricane Ian was a message that said, you need to plan for the future if you’re going to spend this much money,” DiVito explained.
Their plan? Tear down the yacht club and start anew.
But demolition won’t happen soon. The St. Petersburg Yacht Club is thinking five years ahead, said DiVito, who’s third in command and the club’s appointed project spokesperson. The downtown organization, which has about 2,500 members, needs to raise funds for a project that could cost up to $40 million, find a temporary replacement home and finalize architectural designs to have the rebuilding completed by 2028.
Membership fees would go up from $50 to $125 a month to help finance construction costs, DeVito said.
He added the new building would incorporate the same Mediterranean architectural style as the current club.
The waterfront yacht club at 11 Central Ave. was originally constructed in 1917 and has had several renovations throughout its history. In 1921, it was hit by the last major hurricane to make landfall in the Tampa Bay region, which caused extensive flood damage to the building, according to club archives. Membership still increased after that storm, and the building extended its clubhouse in 1922.
Many parts of the building are now on their last legs, DiVito said. And with a bustling downtown, members wanted more amenities.
Remodeling would be too expensive because the waterfront building isn’t up to newer Federal Emergency Management Agency standards to be insured in case a storm hits. Starting fresh would allow the building to comply with those standards and add amenities and more parking space for a growing membership.
“Looking at the damage of the hurricane and how we’ve been lucky for almost 100 years, it doesn’t make any sense to put $15 million into a building that’s at major flood risk of being hit,” DeVito said. “And you lose all that money and have to start over again because flood insurance doesn’t pay dollar for dollar.”