WRITTEN BY SALLIE W. BOYLES
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF LEVIN RINKE REALTY
A true grand finale is eagerly anticipated and exceeds expectations by saving the most fabulous elements for last. After key players dazzle discerning critics, the pièce de résistance—the crowning jewel—goes above and beyond, accentuating and elevating the full experience. Such can be said about Portofino Island Resort’s final phase of development. With the grand finale commencing, all can see that Towers Six and Seven, along with an additional eighty thousand square feet of amenities, have been worth the wait for those in pursuit of the ultimate beach-to-bay lifestyle.
No other resort community in the United States has a masterfully crafted blend of health, fitness, relaxation, recreation, and adventure—along with the true luxury of beachfront Sky Homes—like Portofino Island.
People began to imagine the possibilities in 2010, when Robert Rinke, who partnered with the late Allen Levin in establishing Levin Rinke Realty and developing Portofino Island, announced Towers Six and Seven for the remaining twelve acres of property. Based upon construction on Tower Six beginning in late 2018, resident move-ins are slated for the latter part of 2020. Thus, patience remains a virtue—and one to be rewarded. Quite frankly, owners and members of the local community who value what the resort represents today are more than ready, yet willing to wait. They recognize the benefit of having visionaries and fastidious planners like the Levin Rinke Team in charge, especially for a project in which the stakes are so high.
The remarkable features of Portofino Island’s twenty-eight acres—nestled between the Gulf of Mexico and Santa Rosa Sound and adjacent to a protected, eight-mile stretch of the Gulf Islands National Seashore—pushed the bar sky-high from the start, well before the 2003 groundbreaking for Tower One. In the end, along with the dreamers, even the skeptics found themselves releasing a collective sigh of relief and awe: the first phase of development, completed in 2010, surpassed expectations.
Others in the industry, fixated on sales, would have crowded such a prime parcel with as many sellable/rentable units as possible. Instead, entrenched in the local community and inspired by what nature provided, Levin and Rinke invested in impeccable design and construction.
They set the stage by positioning each of the five towers a football field’s distance away from one another, paving with natural cobble-stone, not asphalt, and placing the parking beneath the buildings. They also zigzagged the towers to create a mirage; based upon a person’s location on the property, at least one building turns invisible. Presto! Five majestic structures never overpower their setting. Likewise, the towers’ triangular shape, uncommonly wide floor plans, and floor-to-ceiling windows yield captivating vistas of water and land from every Sky Home.
In the end, along with the dreamers, even the skeptics found themselves releasing
a collective sigh of relief and awe: the first phase of development, completed in 2010, surpassed expectations.
Premium construction materials and rigorous, self-imposed specs, while not always visible to the eye, forever deliver value—exponentially—to Portofino owners. “We exceed the code dramatically by implementing super-quality, hurricane-hardened construction. In addition to erecting an all-concrete superstructure, we build every exterior and every demising wall out of solid concrete. Yes, it’s the most expensive construction available, and it delivers the best long-term value for our homeowners. The resistance to water intrusion is much greater, so long-term maintenance and home-owners’ insurance are less expensive.”
“In the beginning, 95 percent of our owners rented their units,” Rinke relays. “Today, half don’t. Over the years, more and more have made Portofino Island their main home or their true second home.”
Rinke reveals that cost savings and peace of mind make Portofino’s construction a number-one selling feature to buyers. “People want to relax and know their coastal property is built for the worst weather,” he says, “not worry as they watch the Weather Channel.” Portofino’s endurance was tested in 2004 by Hurricane Ivan, and Rinke declares, “We had our power turned back on first because the three towers built at the time suffered no damage. We even housed displaced residents from the area at Portofino.”
Given that the property had been in the Levin family for thirty years before Levin and Rinke got together to build the resort, Portofino’s quality-minded developers realized an incredible advantage. “We had almost no land cost,” says Rinke. “That allowed us to pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into each Sky Home, establishing a level of quality and value that would have been impossible had we paid the normal price for this property. We put the money into bricks and mortar and built the most expensive tower residential development in Northwest Florida with an $8 million spa and lifestyle center.”
More than pretty structures, those lifestyle amenities—an outdoor lap pool for each tower, two gorgeous lagoon pools, an indoor lap pool, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a European spa, a fully equipped tennis center, a five-star restaurant, a poolside grille, and a sixty-three-foot catamaran—operate with activities and services that anticipate the cravings of the most well-traveled owner or guest. By the way, the person in charge of amenities, Robert Babcock, the CEO of Premier Island Management Group, lives and breathes the lifestyle as a longtime, full-time resident of Portofino Island.
Lifestyle is the operative word at Portofino, where health, fitness, recreation, relaxation, and adventure are all celebrated and, well, lived. “In the beginning, 95 percent of our owners rented their units,” Rinke relays. “Today, half don’t. Over the years, more and more have made Portofino Island their main home or their true second home.”
“The most unique feature granted by the triangular buildings on this section of land is that condos have views of the beach and the estuary as it falls into the bay.”
Not surprisingly, based upon Portofino’s prior performance and the master plan for Towers Six and Seven, owners of Towers One through Five have been the most enthusiastic over what the future holds.
Starting with the towers, Rinke says, “The most unique feature granted by the triangular buildings on this section of land is that condos have views of the beach and the estuary as it falls into the bay.” Also, all Sky Homes have multiple outdoor areas—balconies, verandas, and living rooms—of their own. Floor plans range from two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath. Sky Homes to four-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath penthouses. Square footage and mastery of space contribute to the most spectacular panoramas afforded in any Northwest Florida condo. Describing Towers Six and Seven as “edgier with glass corners that wrap the building,” Rinke points out various collaborations of design and function. Towering floor-to-ceiling windows invite sky, land, and sea inside. Showcasing spectacular scenery to the max—instead of obstructing it—is the result of meticulous forethought, such as in locating the main outdoor living area off to the side of the grand salon. Tempered glass railings also optimize balcony views. More-over, when opening the interior to an al fresco dining room and summer kitchen, Rinke says, “Vanishing glass walls push back and pocket into a stone fireplace and built-in TV wall. Owners and guests never feel they are locked into an apartment.” Visually and practically, commercial-grade slider doors and windows facilitate a seamless flow from inside to out.
Promoting a harmonious lifestyle that balances the joys of entertaining with yearnings for solace, floor plans highlight a grand salon with an oversized chef ’s kitchen, a wine bar with seating, a fireplace, and a built-in media center. Throughout, designer European cabinetry, top-of-the-line appliances (Wolf, Bosch, and Sub-Zero), elegant recessed lighting, and other discerning treatments reflect contemporary elegance within an environment of sublime comfort.
Each master suite—complete with oversized tub, rain shower, extended double vanity, and two walk-in closets—has its own secluded balcony. Additional bedrooms have en suite baths and access to personal balconies as well. A full-size laundry room and a powder room further satisfy the must-haves of home. It’s hard to imagine what one would lack. “We’ve built an entire tower in which every unit is like any other property’s penthouse,” says Rinke.
With a separate entrance and lockout feature, second- or third-bedroom suites give owners a flexible bonus to host guests who could come and go on their own; rent only that bedroom, bath, and balcony area; or rent that space to an individual or couple while also renting the main residence to a family.
“When you live here,” Rinke says, “your unit is a true second home. Your grown kids and friends come to visit. You get all the visitors you’d ever want. The lockout gives privacy to your guests, and egress and ingress. They have their private balcony, but you might open it up for cocktails—it’s your call.” Likewise, many owners require or desire income from their investment, although renting their entire condo might not be appealing or practical. “The lockout allows them to rent the heck out of the suite and earn plenty to cover their property taxes and homeowners’ dues,” Rinke affirms.
The grand finale’s superlative amenities, layered with services to augment Portofino’s lifestyle components (health, fitness, recreation, relaxation, and adventure), promise to keep the resort’s demand at peak levels. “In the first phase, our investment was $8 million in amenities,” reminds Rinke. “This time, we’re investing $40 million in a lifestyle with world-class amenities like no other in the United States.” It’s hard to imagine what one would lack. “We’ve built an entire tower in which every unit is like any other property’s penthouse,” says Rinke.
The Gulf-front lifestyle center, as Rinke puts it, “will make you feel like you’re on a cruise ship.” Three distinct pool deck levels allow owners and guests to relax, swim in one of five pools, soak in the sun, sip their favorite beverages, and savor great food. Along with comfortable lounge chairs, cabanas, and canopied dining tables, the club level presents a main pool that features waterfalls, an adults-only pool, and a beach-entry children’s pool. Children also find their own supervised activities on the mezzanine, allowing parents to unwind with peace of mind. The lower level has two infinity pools and abundant sun-worshipping space. A snack bar and full-service bar, an event space for concerts and other happenings, and a wedding gazebo can be found on the upper level.
Guests and owners of Towers Six and Seven also gain exclusive access to a Gulf-front fitness center with vanishing walls that open to the glorious outdoors for yoga, Pilates, spin classes, and personal workouts. An elevated infinity pool, a $4 million investment that overlooks the Gulf of Mexico from the fourth floor, is also limited to owners and guests of Towers Six and Seven. Just a step away, a full-service luxury spa completes any fitness regime or the sheer desire for pampering.
Exemplifying multiple aspects of living well from day one, Portofino’s grand finale both continues and amplifies a theme of health and longevity with the addition of a wellness center. Along with the spa, facilities include an on-site clinic endorsed by a highly credentialed medical organization. Rinke says that the role of Portofino’s wellness physicians—true internal medicine doctors with extensive training in longevity and preventative medicine—is to provide personal, science-based programs that address the vital areas of well-being. “Not everyone is interested in attaining the highest levels of fitness,” Rinke concedes, “but Portofino appeals to those who are staying active at some level and remaining social with like-minded people. Our aim is to help you live vigorously into your seventies and eighties, perhaps slowing the aging process, and keeping it fun. That’s what most people are seeking, and our goal is to make the realization easier through a lifestyle of health, fitness, recreation, relaxation, and adventure.
“A big influencer on health is nutrition,” Rinke continues. “We’ll focus on a Mediterranean diet, which ties in with Portofino’s Italian character.” Noting that a new boutique market will carry a variety of fresh, organic selections, he envisions people taking cooking classes held in the restaurant’s exhibition kitchen. Next, they’ll visit the market to pick up the ingredients, and subsequently return to their Sky Homes to prepare the chef ’s fabulous, healthy recipes. Those who prefer not to cook would also find signature dishes, expertly procured wines, and other delicacies in the Gulf-front restaurant and full-service bar.
All things considered, many believe the most important addition to Portofino Island is the fourteen-thousand-square-foot conference center. “When they’re not here and they want to rent, the conference center is a huge boon to owners,” Rinke says. “It dramatically increases the value of existing units on the property. Portofino is already 95 percent booked all summer, and we’re already doing well in the spring and fall during weekends.
The conference center fills a huge void from Sunday through Thursday in the spring and fall. Owners will dramatically increase their investment from rental income on an already high-producing property.” With the refrain of mind, body, and soul wellness playing out on Portofino Island, the resort seems a natural fit for medical conferences.
Certainly, Rinke and his team have positioned Portofino to shine relative to the most elite resorts. For comparison, he personally traveled numerous times back and forth to Miami and Fort Lauderdale with his son, Rhys, a partner in the development team and Levin Rinke Realty, to visit premier properties like Four Seasons, the Ritz-Carlton, and Oceana. “South Florida has thousands more condos than in any other part of the country, and there you can pay between $4 and $5 million for two thousand square feet of luxury,” Rinke asserts. “We would put this development up against the best South Florida has to offer.” In closing, he admits, “We drove our architects a little crazy, but the end product is a work of art—period.”
No doubt, with Rinke and his team orchestrating every note, Portofino’s grand finale will be a work of art that appreciates over time.