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South Seas: What's next and what's undecided as the resort builds back

What's next for the hotel on property is undecided as the Captiva Civic Association sues to keep density and heights the way they were before Ian.
Posted at 10:58 AM, May 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-16 17:14:24-04

CAPTIVA ISLAND — So much has changed on Captiva and Sanibel since Hurricane Ian hit nearly two years ago. Things are open, being built back and renovated. I took a trip out to the island and it was so nice to pop into Boops by the Bubble Room to get some of their famous cake. Orange crunch is my favorite! I stopped into the Island Store and Barracudas to grab a few things and then wandered down the road to South Seas.

A little more than a year ago, I was the first journalist to give you a look at the South Seas resort after Ian. I showed you what the storm did to the beautiful property and the hotel. It wasn’t pretty. Buildings were damaged and even destroyed, the golf course was ruined by salt water storm surge and places like Scoops and Slices weren’t standing anymore.

I decided to get an update on where things stand as the resort builds back, so, I jumped in a golf cart with the General Manager, Shawn Farrell, who took me on a tour of the property. It's amazing the difference a year makes.

The main pools, slides and new golf course, The Clutch, are open! You can take a dip, grab a drink from the Tarpon bar and hang at the pool, that sits Gulf-side, or you can try the new 12 hole short course designed by Beau Welling.

Courtesy: South Seas

If you’re hungry, right now you’ll have to hit one of two food-trucks on property or stop by Provisions or Starbucks to grab something, but there are new and updated restaurant in the works.

“Coming online will be Harborside restaurant, Redfish Grill, Scoops and Slices,” shared Farrell.

Courtesy: South Seas

He explained that the new beachfront restaurant would be open in the first quarter of 2025. It’s called The Beach House.

“The Beach House itself is going to replace the two smaller shacks that we had out in front on the beach, so you’re going to have a formal restaurant,” he said.

It’ll be a causal restaurant where you can come up from the water in your bathing suit and eat outside or you can come grab a drink and watch the famous sunset later in the day. There will also be a new restaurant at Captiva Landing where the new water amenity is being built. The water park will have slides, a lay river, a pool and again, that new restaurant. Farrell says the decision to add Captiva Landing was, in part, to create a water feature for people staying near the front of the resort and reduce traffic heading to the only pool right now on the other end of the property.

“It’s going to better the flow of the property, it’s going to round out our full experience on the resort and we just need to make all that balance,” he explained.

Courtesy: South Seas

One of the biggest physical changes at South Seas compared to the last time I showed you the property is the empty area where the hotel used to sit.

It was initially fenced off and badly damaged after Hurricane Ian. Eventually, it was torn down and now it’s just a big open grassy area on the edge of the water.

What, specifically, will be built here is unclear right now. Farrell says it will be a hotel but how many rooms it will have and the exact design is on hold, because it’s a point of contention with some people in the community.

“The whole density things comes up on property,” Farrell explained.

In a nutshell, South Seas and parent company, Timbers, want to build the hotel back with more units than it had before Hurricane Ian.

In December, after public hearings where community members shared concerns about utilities, public safety and traffic, Lee County leaders voted to amend the land code, basically, giving the green light for South Seas to add to its density and raise building heights.

Lisa Riordan, with the Captiva Civic Association, says they’re now suing over that decision by Lee County.

“We have filed an initial lawsuit and we are looking at a lot of other legal options that are open to us to protect this island,” Riordan said.

She spoke with Fox 4’s Captiva Community Correspondent, Anvar Ruziev, about the issue recently and here’s what she told him.

“We’re perfectly happy with leaving things the way that they are, we’d like the density to remain at 3 units per acre and building height to remain 28 feet above the FEMA flood level,” she explained.

Until this issue gets ironed out we'll have to wait and see waht the final plans for the hotel look like. Farrell guesses it might be ironed out by the end of the year.

“Then it will be finishing design and then getting the contractor and setting all of that stuff up,"

Meaning, it will be a while before you can book a hotel room on property, but, there are plenty of other options at South Seas if you want to stay.

“If you’ve stayed here at South Seas before, it wasn’t just the hotel, we’ve had other rental product which is all coming back online as owners finish with the renovations,” Farrell shared.

There are about 160 villas and condos that you can rent right now and by October there should be about 200 online according to Farrell.

He says the experience might be a little different right now as they build back and iron out the next chapter but there are things that haven’t changed one bit.

“The dolphins are the same, the manatees are the same and the sunrise and sunsets are the same.”

If you want to learn more about What’s Happening on South Seas property - Click Here

To learn more about Protect Captiva and the Captiva Civic Association’s lawsuit to keep density and building heights the way there were on island - Click here