ANNA MARIA -- The buyers of a mid-century motel with one of the best views of the Rod & Reel Pier in downtown Anna Maria say they plan to downsize and renovate the property to improve the family-oriented portion of the vacation rental market.
John and Suzette Buchan of Caledonia, Mich. bought the 63-year-old Rod & Reel Resort on Nov. 25 for $2.68 million, acquiring it from an Indiana owner that held it for more than a decade. An iconic fixture at the city's waterfront, the 11-unit property -- known variously as the Rod & Reel Motel and the Emerald by the Sea -- has for decades offered guests wide views of the Intracoastal Waterway and Tampa Bay and instant access to nearby downtown shops and restaurants.
It is located next to the entry to the Rod & Reel Pier at 877 North Shore Drive in a neighborhood dominated by waterfront homes.
Experienced vacation rental property owners who have done three rehab and construction projects on the island over the past seven years, the Buchans are aiming to appeal to families with children once they finish remodeling the old motel. In the past, the property has primarily been a destination for couples looking to spend a night or two in the small units crammed into the L-shaped, 5,400-square-foot building, said Suzette Buchan.
The renovation, planned to start early next year, will reduce the motel's guest capacity from 38 to 28. Buchan said some units will be combined to make for larger family accommodations. She and her husband also plan to build a pool and make other changes designed to make guests feel that they have more privacy than the view across the current courtyard allows.
"It will be a better option for families," she said. "It will create more privacy and security."
Buchan said she expects renovation work to be complete by next fall.
Regular visitors to Anna Maria Island for the past two decades, the Buchans are well invested in the tourism economy. Two years ago, they remodeled the former Sandy Toes resort on 26th St. N. in Bradenton Beach into the two-building, nine-bedroom Blue Horizon. They own another, seven-bedroom vacation rental at 7201 Gulf Dr. dubbed View of the Gulf. They owned another rental in Holmes Beach, but sold it in 2008.
The couple hadn't expected to be attracted to another vacation rental property, but the Rod & Reel inspired Buchan's creativity.
"It's just something that I enjoy doing," she said.
To get started on their newest project, the Buchans presented their renovation plan in a public hearing in early November. Buchan said the project received initial approval from the city commission.
The remodeled accommodations will be welcome downtown said Deb Wing, president of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce. She said she is pleased that the property will remain a vacation rental. The cement-block building has an "old Florida" character that has charmed visitors for years.
"People have just loved coming there and staying there forever," she said.
The Buchans have not yet established rental rates for the motel. They have, however, decided that they will stick with the Rod & Peer Resort moniker.
To purchase their newest property, the Buchans took out a $1.232 million mortgage from Whitney Bank.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027 or on Twitter@MattAtBradenton.