As Preston Sutter looked out over the breezeway of the new Point South Marina in Port St. Joe's ship store building, he took a moment to reflect on the space.
“I love this breezeway, because I feel like it’s kind of a gateway to the bay,” he said, pointing out the view of the water. “I love the way it frames the jetty and the seawall. It’s going to be really exciting to pull up here from our parking lot and see this.”
“Our goal is that when you pull in with your truck, and your fishing rods, and your kids, and Grandmomma and all that, one of our dock hands will be standing right here ready to help you stock up and get out on that water.”
Nearly four years since Hurricane Michael flattened the existing marina, the Point South Marina is on the verge of a total rebuild.
Contractors are in the final stretch of completing the facility, Sutter, the marina’s new general manager, said, and the vision he and other representatives from the St. Joe Company Hospitality have is starting to come together.
“We got a shipment of toilets and water fountains the other day,” Sutter said, “which doesn’t sound that exciting, but it means we’re getting close.”
“We’re getting really excited about the little wins that are putting us closer to opening.
On a tour of the new facilities Public Relations Director for St. Joe Hospitality David Demarest said the company is aiming to begin opening the marina to the public as soon as this fall.
The new marina will feature several notable differences from the original facility – one of the most noticeable being a 63,000 square foot dry dock boat storage facility capable of storing 252 boats up to 43 feet in length.
The marina’s previous boat barn only held 80 vessels.
“While this building seems big,” he said gesturing to the new boat barn, “and while what we’re building may seem kind of out of step with that small town, it’s going to give us the ability to offer that relationship and what really makes this place special to a lot more families.”
“This place is only as cool as the people running it, and with the people we’ve got in this town, it’s going to be awesome.”
Demarest said dry dock storage should be available by the end of the year, and wet slip storage should be expected by the spring.
Other marina amenities will include retail establishments, wet slip rentals, pontoon rentals, rinsing and flushing stations, boat clubs and more.
“We spent a lot of time thinking about how to build back stronger and better, and this is really going to help bring the marina business in Gulf County into the 21st century,” said Sutter.
The loss of the original marina was felt significantly in Port St. Joe.
Before it was destroyed, it served as a gathering place for the community and a landmark for the town.
Adrianne Glass, the marketing director for the Gulf County Tourism Development Council, said that after the new marina is completed, soon it might once again begin to fulfill that function.
“We’ve already talked to Preston and David about trying to do some type of event when it opens back up,” she said. “We kind of threw some stuff around last time we were up here.”
Demarest said St. Joe Hospitality is looking forward to helping restore the role the facility once played in the area.
“The marina is the heartbeat of the area as far as people going out scalloping or fishing or whatever,” he said. “So it’s super important to get this thing back online, and it’s super close right now.”
Sutter, who moved to Port St. Joe with his family just three weeks ago, said he is looking forward to stepping into the role in the community.
“I think the community needs this outlet. The boat ramps are full with people trying to back their boats in with trailers, and the thing this really allows, and what I try to imagine, is that we’re taking away so many of the peripheral parts of boating.”
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