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The Boca Grande Club early years: The 1970s and 80s

SUBMITTED BY THE BOCA GRANDE HISTORICAL SOCIETY – A November 1978 article in the St Petersburg Times announced the creation of a new development on Gasparilla Island, to be called the Boca Grande Club. The original investors in the project were Harper Sibley, who developed the Ocean Reef Club on Key Largo; Wilber H. (Bud) Cole, a founder of Punta Gorda Isles Inc.; Louis Fischer, former president of General Development Corp.; and William Cox, a Coral Gables architect who is designing the new Boca Grande Club.
The article projected that the Club would build five units per acre, although zoning would allow 20 units per acre. The Club would therefore be the biggest thing on the island, where the 1970s population was estimated to be 500 people. The developers emphasized, however, that they “wanted the club to blend in with the island, not change it.”
The Boca Grande Club organization acquired the property on which they would build from Sunset Realty, whose owner, Henry Schwartz, reportedly “stepped into a Wall Street-area auction house one day in the 1940s to get out of the cold.” For sale was the north end of Gasparilla Island and other area properties which he bought for an undisclosed amount.
During the next 30 years Sunset sold a few individual lots, but resisted selling large parcels to developers until this sale to the Boca Grande Club. Speculation regarding his change of heart is that Schwartz was positively impressed by the Ocean Reef Club connection, and by Bud Cole’s record with Punta Gorda Isles.
In September of 1979, the Boca Grande Club developers sent a solicitation to prospective members/owners. The mailing included a letter, with the first paragraph offering, “Nature at its best! The beautiful sand of three miles of Florida’s last great unspoiled shell beach, coupled with the bluegreen coolness of the Gulf of Mexico.”