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Building a Legacy

In 1876, William B. Astor Jr., brought what was the largest private yacht in Florida to Jacksonville and established what is today one of the oldest oldest yacht clubs in the country. I certainly did not give that much thought when I joined the board of the Florida Yacht Club (FYC) in 2014. Two friends on the board asked me to run for an open seat and help with an upcoming renovation project. I was certainly interested in helping as I grew up at the club and had been a member for almost 20 years. That interest turned into me becoming the club’s first fourth-generation commodore and completing the planning and funding of a major capital renovation plan.

Jacksonville was hit by Hurricane Irma in 2017, causing mass devasta- tion and upending our plans. The second hurricane to impact the area in 12 months caused catastrophic flooding. We entered the clubhouse the day after to find the entire facility (except for an old kitchen) filled with water. The gravity of the situation was clear and we quickly gathered the board and staff together to face it. That urgency exposed the lack of overall planning we had in place to look at our long-term needs. We had a general direction in mind but no definitive plan to get us there. With a board that changes annually, we needed a plan to guide our club for years to come and set a path for renovation and growth. Membership rallied around the planned renovations. We were eager to carry that momentum forward to other areas of the clubhouse and adjoining buildings. The biggest issue was that even as we grew and added space in the past, core areas like the kitchen were not addressed. We understood a large portion of our needs were back-of-house items members would have a hard time prioritizing without clear informa- tion. The board began engaging recognized industry leaders to help address our needs including capital replacement, funding, master planning and membership engagement. This was not a simple undertaking, and it took many months of constant work to identify who we were as a club and what our vision was as we approached the club’s 150th anniversary and beyond.

Outside of our land-based master plan, we had to address our docks. As a yacht club, there is an obvious expectation of a boating facility to support our membership. Our issue has always been a location that exposes the club to the worst elements of storms and weather. Maintain- ing our yachting facility and undertaking a major renovation was certain- ly going to challenge us financially and strategically. We needed all the puzzle pieces to fit together in a way the membership could understand, fund and, in the end, enjoy and grow the club.

The Importance of Planning

The ultimate key to our success the last few years has been our planning efforts. Feedback from our membership helped identify our needs. Their

strategic input showed what we had, what we needed and how we could implement that in the coming years. Our work with our strategic  partners for planning, in tandem with the beautiful renderings of a future version of FYC, engaged the membership and led to a very active and thoughtful discussion of our path forward.

In November 2021, FYC voted on the master plan. Members voted on individual aspects of the plan to ensure all interested parties were heard and allowed to offer their thoughts. It is easy to dismiss a large plan because the facts get clouded by its sheer size. We intentionally broke our planning into phases so we could address the issues and cost of each stage in a clear manner. This was very helpful in the overall passage of the plan; members knew the importance of each individual part and they understood why we chose them based on the gathered information.

Ultimately, the membership voted to approve all phases of the plan with an overwhelming majority. Approvals of the various phases ranged from 77% to 86%, and that membership meeting had the largest attendance of any we have had in the 25 years I have been a member. The overwhelming support was directly related to the facts and information we had worked so hard to gather during the past years. As I end my term on the board and look forward to restful days with my family, I am confident in our club’s path forward. FYC has direction in a comprehensive master plan the board and members can follow for years to come and that will create an exceptional destination for my family and others to enjoy.