AMI Elects New Board Members

The Association of Marina Industries (AMI) elected its 2020 officers and directors at its annual International Marina & Boatyard Conference (IMBC) held January 14 to 16, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Chris Petty of Suntex Waterfront Management was appointed chair; John Swick, CMM, of Safe Harbor Marinas was appointed vice chair; Rick Chapman, CMM, of Port of Sunnyside Club Inc. was appointed treasurer; and Kevin Thompson of Bellingham Marine was appointed secretary.

Three new members were elected to the 2020 board of directors for a three-year term – Kathy Haley, CMM, of Miami Dade Parks and Recreation; Ted Schiafone, CMM, of City of Oceanside; and Odai Sirri of Waterfront Suites & Marina.

The new board members will join the existing board, which includes: Austin Cameron of VIP Marina, LLC; Ray Fernandez, CMM, of Bridge Marina; John Chiazza of Aon Risk Solutions; Giuseppe Alvarado of Shilshole Bay Marina; Enza Montano of Chicago Harbors – Westrec; Marieke van Peer, CMM, of Seahaven Superyacht Marina; Chris Dolan of Marina Electrical Equipment; Steve Linton, CMM, of Pikes Bay Marina; Bill Young of Morningstar Properties; and Joe Riley, CMM, of Riley Marine Group.

AMI is a nonprofit membership organization that provides management training, education and information on research, legislation and environmental issues affecting the marina industry.

New owners of Meridian Marina planning renovations, expansion of facility

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Jenny and Austin Cameron, of Austin, Texas, walk with their daughter Coltie, 2, through the stacks of boats in dry dock at Meridian Marina, on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, in Palm City. The Camerons are the new owners of the marina and are preparing for extensive repairs to the existing storage facility, adding additional storage, boat sales, a repair shop and a waterfront restaurant.

Jenny and Austin Cameron, of Austin, Texas, walk with their daughter Coltie, 2, through the stacks of boats in dry dock at Meridian Marina, on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, in Palm City. The Camerons are the new owners of the marina and are preparing for extensive repairs to the existing storage facility, adding additional storage, boat sales, a repair shop and a waterfront restaurant.

Ryan Jacobs (left) and Austin Cameron help guide a boat onto a forklift to be washed and placed into storage on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, at Meridian Marina in Palm City. Cameron, along with his wife Jenny, took over ownership of the marina in January and are in the first stages of repairing the existing storage facility with eventual expansion to house more boats.

Ryan Jacobs (left) and Austin Cameron help guide a boat onto a forklift to be washed and placed into storage on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, at Meridian Marina in Palm City. Cameron, along with his wife Jenny, took over ownership of the marina in January and are in the first stages of repairing the existing storage facility with eventual expansion to house more boats.

A boat is slowly placed in dry dock on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, at Meridian Marina in Palm City. Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, recently took ownership of the marina and are planning to increase storage capacity, open a repair shop and add a waterfront restaurant.

A boat is slowly placed in dry dock on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, at Meridian Marina in Palm City. Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, recently took ownership of the marina and are planning to increase storage capacity, open a repair shop and add a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, play with their children, 8-month-old Hudson and 2-year-old Coltie, on their boat 'Corporate Office' on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, at Meridian Marina in Palm City. The Camerons took over ownership of the marina in January and live on their boat while planning the repair and eventual expansion of the facility.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, play with their children, 8-month-old Hudson and 2-year-old Coltie, on their boat ‘Corporate Office’ on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, at Meridian Marina in Palm City. The Camerons took over ownership of the marina in January and live on their boat while planning the repair and eventual expansion of the facility.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

Austin and Jenny Cameron, of Austin, Texas, took over ownership of Meridian Marina in Palm City in January. The Camerons are planning extensive renovations including repairs to and expansion of the current storage facility, opening a repair shop, boat sales and a waterfront restaurant.

VIP Marinas Purchases Meridian Marina and Yacht Club

After being in bankruptcy since summer 2019, Meridian Marina and Yacht Club in Palm City, Florida, is now under new ownership and undergoing improvements.

“Twenty-four months from now it will look like a totally different place,” said Austin Cameron, owner of VIP Marinas. With the addition of Meridian Marina, the company now owns two Florida marinas, one on each coast.

The previous owner had managed the property since 2009, taking ownership around 2015. Cameron said the owner did not have money to invest in the property for the last several years. “When you have a marina and stop fixing stuff it snowballs,” he said.

When VIP Marinas took ownership in January 2021 there were holes in the roof of the boat storage building, environmental concerns, and one of the employees told him they had not had soap for six months.

“The existing employees are incredible,” Cameron said. “They’ve been holding it together with duct tape and bubble gum. They’ve worked their tails off.”
Colliers International Leisure Property Advisors had the listing originally. A representative at Colliers said they had several offers on the property, but the owner “kept moving the goal post.” Cameron was one of those early potential buyers.

The new owner plans to add storage for another 280 boats

He and his wife, Jenny, who is a co-owner of VIP Marinas, spent the night on their boat at Meridian Marina and met with the owner, Tim Mullen. Cameron told Mullen what he thought the marina was valued at, but they couldn’t work out a deal. “We moved on.” Cameron said. “Jenny was on maternity leave and we spent our time cruising the Florida coastlines looking for another marina to buy.”

In the interim, the bankruptcy proceedings continued, and the marina was scheduled to go up for auction in December 2020. Then one day the owner called Cameron to see if he was still interested. “He said, ‘Let me know today.’”
The Camerons were living on their boat “Corporate Office” at Anclote Village, a marina in Holiday, Florida, that VIP Marinas bought in September 2019. They planned to boat to Palm City, but when they got to Lake Okeechobee they found the lock was closed due to vegetation blocking the waterway. They turned around, went back to Fort Myers and rented a car to make the drive.
Because of the looming deadline and the auction approaching, Cameron said he had about a week to do due diligence on the property and did not have time to go through the usual contract process. He got approval from the court the day before the marina was set to go on the auction block. The sale closed 30 days later, and they took possession on January 8, 2021.

“It’s an old marina and needs a lot of love,” Cameron said. His immediate priorities were a new roof for the boat storage building, buying a new forklift, upgrading the fuel system and environmental remediation.

Even with all the problems at the property, it was operating at near capacity and there is demand for growth. A new planned community is being built about five miles from the marina that will include 4,200 homes.

Cameron’s timeline includes renovating and repairing the existing buildings by June 1, starting the process for expansion, which he expects to take about 18 months, and by the third year being fully operational. “It’s going to be a massive turnaround,” he said.

The marina sits on 11.75 acres along the St. Lucie River. The property includes a 62,000-square-foot storage facility that can accommodate up to 300 boats, and a 6,000-square-foot multi-purpose building. The docks include three wet slips and a staging area for boaters.

Cameron plans to add storage for another 280 boats, including space that can accommodate today’s larger boats. He also wants to position the marina as a stopping point for transient boaters. “In our first week, we had three transients stop over,” he said. The new additions will include dock space for transients, a new seawall, a restaurant, new fuel system, a laundry facility, ships store, boat sales and service, and courtesy car service.

VIP Marinas Growth
While Austin and Jenny are busy putting their plans in motion at Meridian, his brother has joined the team as a managing partner at Marina Bay Harbor in Clear Lake Shores, Texas. Marina Bay Harbor is a fully-enclosed dry stack facility that can accommodate 220 boats up to 47 feet in length.
Cameron said that property is seeing a full turn-around as well – they are installing new docks, a new fuel system, service center and ship’s store.

VIP Marinas took over ownership of Meridian Marina and Yacht Club in Palm City, Florida in January 2021.

The company also expanded its Surfside Marina in Surfside Beach, Texas, by buying the facility next door, which allowed them to nearly quadruple the service center capacity.

Early in his career, Cameron set a goal to own 10 marinas by the time he was 45, when he surpassed that, he upped the ante to 15 marinas. Now at age 41, he owns 12 marinas.
He shares the credit for his success with his employees and local managers and says he’s lucky to be the leader of VIP Marinas. “I wouldn’t be able to do this if my other team members weren’t so amazing,” he said. “I don’t even have to be at my other facilities. Our Chief Operating Officer Felecia Ongley and the local management teams are who does the work day-to-day. They treat the marina as if it were their own. We’re very blessed to have the employees we do.”

Meridian Marina Renovates Storage and Plans More

In January 2021, Austin and Jenny Cameron, owners of VIP Marinas, bought the Meridian Marina in Palm City, Florida. The marina, located on the banks of the St. Lucie River, was in foreclosure as the previous owner had declared bankruptcy. The 62,000- square-foot dry storage facility had been in a state of disrepair since Hurricane Irma swept through the area in 2017.

“The siding had been blown off and the roof was leaking badly. Rust from the roof was falling in on the boats,” said Jenny Cameron. The building, which has space for 260 boats up to 42 feet long, was in such bad condition that the Camerons couldn’t get it insured.

The new owners began renovations almost immediately. To save money on the project, they worked with Extreme Metal Fabricators, a local metal supply/fabrication house. “This is a small community, so we thought it was important to support local business here,” said Austin Cameron. They also hired David Coyle of Mack David Building as a consultant to oversee the project and make sure that the facility was properly constructed. As of late May 2021, installation of the roof and metal wall panels was almost complete, ready for the planned decorative panels.

Even before the renovations, occupancy of the facility was almost at 70% because of the huge popularity of boating in the area. With the renovations, Jenny Cameron said they expect to be at 100% occupancy very soon. So the owners are planning an addition to the facility that will include another 280 boat racks. Half of them will be in an addition to the current dry storage facility, and will be able to accommodate boats up to 50 feet. The other half will be located outside on the marina’s 11.75-acre site. The marina is currently going through the permitting and approval process for the additional slips, and the Camerons say that City representatives have verbally supported their plans.

When VIP Marinas took over the marina, the concrete paths and launch areas were full of potholes. “There’s a giant hole on our launch area where they had pulled out the gas tank from the late ‘80s or early ‘90s,” said Austin Cameron.

Before they could replace all of the broken, cracked and patched concrete, that area had to undergo several environmental tests and gain approval from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

“We finally got our final, fourth round of tests, and we have clean soil, so we’re going to be repouring 12-inch-thick concrete for the entire path,” said Austin. The marina has also replaced two old forklifts with newer, safer ones.