CORTEZ -- A businessman known mostly for developing residential real estate is wading into the restaurant and marina business as he works on renovating the Seafood Shack and its adjacent marina.
Improvements to the marina started last year when the Toronto-based development firm Vandyk group of companies purchased the roughly six-acre property. Additional renovations are ongoing. The marina and Seafood Shack remained open and will remain open.
Even though the Seafood Shack transported its oyster bar to the Food and Wine on Pine festival in May, Liza Kubik, director of marketing and events for the Seafood Shack, said the restaurant was never really closed.
The 180-seat restaurant closed for a day and a half during kitchen upgrades, but otherwise it remained open throughout the renovation process.
The marina, built in 1971, was in need of renovations. Pilings and decking, some still present from the original construction, began to splinter and show age from the elements.
"Owner and CEO John C. Vandyk's vision was to bring the local treasure back to life and the marina has been just one step of the process," according to Kubik.
Vandyk's career has solely been in residential real estate until now. The Seafood Shack property is his first commercial marina venture. He works primarily in the Toronto area but has two projects in Sarasota County; one near Golden Gate Point and another near the Burns Square Historic District.
Some locals were concerned that when Vandyk took over he would knock down the existing structures and start anew, Kubik said,
but demolition was never a part of the plan.
"I don't know if we've been smart or lucky but there's a real natural curiosity out there in regard to what we're doing because the property is so beloved by locals and the community, so they're happy that the renovations are being done," Kubik said.
Vandyk said he focuses on maintaining an authentic sense of place in his development projects and the Cortez property is no different.
"The property desperately needed the boost of life we are providing," he said.
Other improvements to the 68-slip marina include enhanced electrical capacity, new power pedestals and better lighting. WiFi capabilities were already available at the marina and were strengthened during the upgrades.
"All of the enhancements are really geared toward the safety and well-being of our guests," Kubik said.
Prices for slips are $1.75 per foot for 30 amp boats and $2 per foot for 50 amp vessels. The marina can accommodate mega yachts up to 120 feet.
Guests at the marina can take advantage of nearby gas and bait facilities at Annie's Bait and Tackle as well as enjoy cruises hosted by Island Pearl Excursions, docked at the Seafood Shack.
The Island Pearl departs twice daily from Seafood Shack for sightseeing cruises.
The marina is also looking for a large passenger boat to provide cruises over the Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay and for private charters.
Vandyk is also looking into docking seaplanes at the marina.
Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter@jayohday.