| The Daytona Beach News-Journal
DAYTONA BEACH — Different Orlando investor groups have purchased two oceanfront sites here: the location of the former Beachcomber Oceanfront Inn and the former Americano Beach Resort timeshare just to the south on State Road A1A.
An investor group led by James Gissy on Friday closed its $3.5 million purchase of the vacant lot at 2000 N. Atlantic Ave. that was once the site of the old Beachcomber Oceanfront Inn.
Gissy’s group placed the highest offer in an online auction that drew 30 bids. The purchase closed shortly after noon, confirmed Tim Davis of SVN Alliance Commercial Real Estate Advisors. Davis was the property’s listing agent.
Gissy is executive vice president of Orlando-based Westgate Resorts, but his purchase of the former Beachcomber site did not involve that company, said Davis. “(Westgate CEO) David Siegel is not affiliated in any way.”
Westgate, however, in a separate transaction, recently acquired an oceanfront property down the street: the former Americano Beach Resort timeshare complex at 60 N. Atlantic Ave. in Daytona Beach.
The sale of the Americano property closed on April 24 for $500,000, according to Volusia County property records.
Davis was not involved in that transaction but represented another party that was looking at the former Americano property.
The actual sale price for the Americano was likely more than $2 million because it also involved people who owned vacation shares in the timeshare resort, Davis said.
The 10-story, 163-unit Americano has been closed for more than three years after suffering damage during Hurricane Irma in September 2017, Davis said.
“(Westgate founder and CEO) David Siegel’s long-term plans for the Americano is fixing it up and making it into a Westgate-branded timeshare resort,” said Davis.
The News-Journal was unable to reach Gissy or other Westgate officials for comment.
Davis said to his knowledge Gissy and his partners have no immediate plans for the former Beachcomber Inn property. “Jim saw it as an opportunity,” he said.
Gissy, in another deal separate from Westgate, also led the development of the Wawa convenience store/gas station on the corner of Nova Road and Dunlawton Avenue in Port Orange a few years ago, Davis said.
Siegel and his wife Jackie were the subjects of “The Queen of Versailles,” an award-winning 2012 documentary on how the couple and their family attempted to build the Versailles house in Orlando’s ritzy Windermere community. The 90,000-square-foot mansion is the largest and most expensive single-family house in the United States. It is named and modeled after the Palace of Versailles in France.
The Orlando Business Journal on Sept. 30 reported that the mansion is still under construction. David Siegel told the publication that his family was committed to completing the project which began in 2004.
On its website, Westgate describes itself as the operator of “27 beautiful resorts in premiere travel destinations throughout the United States.” The company also calls itself “the largest privately held timeshare company in the world and one of the largest resort developers in the United States.”
“Most Westgate Resorts locations feature a variety of unique restaurant, retail and spa concepts,” a recent company news release stated. The Oct. 9 release was about Westgate Resorts being recognized by Conde Nast Traveler’s 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards. Its Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort was named by the travel magazine as one of the top 25 resorts in Florida.
Westgate was founded in 1982 and is a subsidiary of Central Florida Investments Inc., which shares the same offices.
Its Florida properties include the Harbour Beach Resort, an eight-story, 141-unit condo hotel at 701 S. Atlantic Ave. in Daytona Beach, just south of Sun Splash Park.
Westgate officials did not respond to requests for comment.
“We’re real excited about the sale (of the Beachcomber site),” said Christos Mavronas, owner of the Steve’s Famous Diner restaurant across the street, on Thursday.
Mavronas said Gissy has stopped in to eat at his restaurant on multiple occasions. Mavronas said the Orlando investor confirmed that his group was the one that won the bidding for the Beachcomber property.
Ormond Beach businessman L. Gale Lemerand, whose oceanfront condo is just up the street from the former Beachcomber site, confirmed that he was one of the bidders in the auction that was held a couple weeks ago.
“I placed several bids. I topped out at $2.5 million with one minute to go,” Lemerand said. “The high bidder wound up raising their offer by a million dollars in the final minute. That was way too high for me.”
Lemerand said the auction was a blind one where bidders did not know the identity of the others making offers. He said the auction was for three contiguous vacant oceanfront lots as well as a vacant lot on the west side of A1A, just south of Steve’s Famous Diner.
Lemerand is the chairman and majority owner of Stonewood Holdings, the parent company of the Stonewood Grill restaurant chain as well as the Coastal Grill eatery in Port Orange. His other investments include a 50% stake in Houligans Sports Grille restaurants.
The old Beachcomber Oceanfront Inn was a seven-story resort that had 184 rooms, A postcard from the 1970s described the hotel as a place that offered “Oceanfront fun for the whole family directly on the ‘World’s Most Famous Beach. 184 rooms, efficiencies and suites. Individually controlled air-conditioning and heat, color TV, ‘in room movies.’ Large heated pool, playground and pool for children, shuffleboard courts, game room, restaurant, cocktail lounge, gift shop.”
Bob Davis, president and CEO of the Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia County, used to work as a vice president with Oceans Eleven, the company that owned the Beachcomber back in its heyday.
Bob Davis, who is not related to Tim Davis, also managed another Oceans Eleven hotel in Daytona Beach Shores, the old Treasure Island Inn.
“It was run very well,” said Davis of the old Beachcomber.
The Beachcomber was sold in 1999 to a company called Bray & Gillespie that bought a number of hotels along the ocean throughout the Daytona Beach area.
Lemerand said he was told that Bray & Gilliespie paid $15 million for The Beachcomber when he did his research on the property before placing his bids during the recent auction.
The Beachcomber closed in 2004 after suffering heavy damage during the hurricanes that swept through the area that year. The building was torn down in 2007 with plans by Bray & Gillespie to replace it with a bigger 33-story hotel that was to be called The Blu, according to news reports.
“They even bought this restaurant which used to be a pizza shop,” said Mavronas of the standalone building that has been home to Steve’s Famous Diner since 2011.
The hotel was never built. Bray & Gillespie wound up going bankrupt during the Great Recession that began in December 2007.
The lot has been vacant ever since.
“A hotel would help (the area). So would a condo or a park or a water park,” said Mavronas. “It’s undeveloped land. Something should be there.”
Westgate’s other hotels and resorts in Florida include the Westgate South Beach Oceanfront Resort in Miami’s South Beach/Art Deco District, Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort in Cocoa Beach, Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa in Orlando, Westgate Town Center Resort and Westgate Vacation Villas Resort in Kissimmee, and Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo, a “luxury glamping resort” or dude ranch in Polk County.
The company also operates hotels and resorts in Las Vegas, Nevada, Branson, Missouri, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, Mesa, Arizona, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Park City, Utah, Tunica, Mississippi, Williamsburg, Virginia, and New York City.