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Date of Issue: June 23, 2005

Siam Garden being sold, units to be privatized
am siam pic
Selling but staying
Siam Garden owners Kent and Sophaphan Davis plan on selling their Anna Maria resort to a group of Island investors, but hope to remain involved in management of the resort. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Faced with mounting taxation and increased costs, Kent Davis of the Siam Garden resort in Anna Maria has decided to sell his 16-unit property to a group of Island investors. The investors plan on "privatizing" the individual units for resale.

"My tax bill is going up $12,000 this year to $32,000," said Davis. "Where's it going next year?" Taxes, accompanying insurance increases and other rising costs are the problem all small resorts face on the Island in trying to maintain a successful business, he said.

Rather than just sell to an outside investor who didn't care about keeping the Island charm of Siam Garden, Davis and real estate agent Barry Gould formulated a plan that would "privatize" the units for sale to individual investors, but keep Siam Garden as a resort.

"The use is not changing," said Davis, "just the ownership. Siam Garden will still be here and the operation remains the same."

The resort is being purchased by Island resident Benton Benalcazar, who assembled a group of investors to purchase the property for an estimated $4 million. Closing is scheduled for July 15, Gould said.

Gould, also an Island resident, said the privatization method may be the answer to saving the smaller resorts from condominium conversion. He's formed the Island Vacation Properties network that manages these type of properties. The Anna Maria Island Beach Resort in Holmes Beach is already privatized and an IVP member, although privatization is not a requirement to join the IVP network.

"I want the Island to stay as it is, and this mechanism may be the answer," he said. Privatization has "no down side, and keeps the Island the same."

Davis agreed. "Privatizing rental units is a way for the smaller properties to survive." Additionally, a small resort can significantly reduce expenses by having a central agency such as IVP handle marketing, management and services, he noted.

After the closing, Davis said he hopes to organize smaller Island properties under the IVP umbrella to help retain the charm of the small "mom-and-pop" resorts that make the Island unique and attract visitors. He'll also stay involved in the management of Siam Garden.

Once available, Siam Garden units should sell for about $300,000, Gould said. He emphasized that owners cannot be "occupants" of the unit, and the resort will continue to be run as it is now - "a beautiful resort in Anna Maria," he said.

Davis purchased the property four years ago, when it was generally considered a rundown motel for drug users and partygoers. He and his wife poured in thousands of dollars in improvements and upgrades, and landscaped and modeled the property in an Asian motif.

Anna Maria Acting Mayor John Quam said that according to City Attorney Jim Dye, the city does not appear to have a legal issue with privatizing the units, "as long as the use remains the same."

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