Richard O’Brien, CEO of Athena Real Estate LLC, which operate RV parks, manufactured housing communities and self-storage properties in Florida, anticipates continuing to grow his business in the Sunshine State mainly through 55-plus age communities.
The Danbury, Conn.-based firm’s latest acquisition was Morningside RV Estates, a 400-site, 5-star 55-plus RV park with full amenities in Dade City, Fla.
Morningside has two clubhouses, an enclosed heated pool, shuffleboard courts, horseshoe pits, laundry, billiards, a library and more. Morningside also has a golf cart path to the Walmart. The park is in the top 90th percentile for RV parks in quality across the Zephyrhills/Dade City area, according to a news release.
“We tend to cluster properties for ease of management (Central Florida is growth area for us),” O’Brien stated in the release. “We think we are at a good spot in the cycle to acquire more properties over the next several years with debt cost being near record lows and the economy starting to improve.”
O’Brien founded Athena Real Estate LLC in 2004. He discovered RV parks while working with GE Capital Real Estate approximately 15 years ago. The concept of buying and operating was further encouraged by his time in the lodging industry thinking about the RV Park sector as “outdoor hospitality.”
Morningside is a gated community offering large lots (2,160 SF), wide streets, overhead commercial lighting, three ponds, Wi-Fi, a hurricane/tornado shelter and municipal water/sewer. Morningside started as a small RV park about 25 years ago and was expanded around 2002.
Any RVer age 55 or older with a 10-year or newer RV may stay at Morningside from a day or longer.
Morningside caters to the extended stay RVer. The vast majority of the park’s resident-guests are 7-month occupants and store their unit on site the remainder of the year. These units are tied down and vinyl skirted. Most of these units are park model homes.
The resort will become a seller of park model homes on-site, O’Brien indicated. Today, there are a few “for sale” by owner units.
“Our biggest opportunity is to improve the exposure of the property to the RVing community,” O’Brien continued. “The property was not marketed in the past simply because the former owners who are in their 70s were in a different place in life.”
Synergies with Cypress Campground & Cypress RV Sales
Cypress Campground & RV Park is a 200-site RV park in neabry Winter Haven that O’Brien’s firm also owns.
“This is a very nice community with clubhouse, shuffleboard, bocce, heated pool, putt putt golf, and is 2 1/2 miles from Legoland,” he said. “It too coincidently has a private golf cart path to the adjacent Walmart. There are definitely cross-sell opportunities as the two are synergistic. Cypress also caters to the seniors in the winter months but has a transient component throughout the year given its proximity to Legoland.”
“Cypress RV Sales is our pre-owned RV dealer and there are also synergies with the two RV parks. We buy/sell RVs. Most of our inventory is consignment inventory so we provide our campers and others a valuable service in today’s soft economy and RV sales market,” he concluded.