By B.C. Manion
Paradise Lakes — a clothing optional resort in Land O’ Lakes — is getting a new look, according to Jerry Buchanan, who along with his wife, Patti, purchased the property last month.
Buchanan, who lives near Minneapolis, said he and his wife had come to Florida because they wanted a place to live in the winter.
While here, they learned about the resort’s availability, and Buchanan said it seemed like a project that suited his particular set of skills.
He specializes in restoring buildings, including one project involving an 1860s building he brought back to life.
“The first thing I want to do is bring Paradise Lakes back to its former self,” Buchanan said. “It used to have 5,000 members.”
While he’s committed to the project, he isn’t promising an overnight transformation.
He said he’s beginning by doing touchups to the 66-room hotel.
Some rooms need new paint; others, a new air conditioner. A few have leaky faucets or need a new light switch, Buchanan said.
There’s a fair amount of deferred maintenance that needs to be addressed, Buchanan said. “We’re chipping away at it.”
The couple’s purchase includes the resort portion of the property with its pools, restaurants, nightclub and hotel.
In addition to their property, Paradise Lakes has 581 residents who live in houses, town homes and condominiums.
Buchanan said he and his wife will live here during the winter, and he’ll commute back and forth during the rest of the year.
“I’m going to be spending a lot of hands-on time here,” he said.
Buchanan said he has no plans for lay offs and may need to hire additional staff when business picks up.
“We have hired the entire staff that was here,” Buchanan said.
The resort and residential community have a long history in the community, according to Stephanie Gibson, general manager. Paradise Lakes is the largest clothing optional resort in the United States and possibly the first clothing option resort in Pasco County, she said.
The Buchanans’ decision to buy the property has been greeted with enthusiasm by staff, property owners and guests, Gibson said.
“We all feel with the Buchanans’ vision, Paradise will far exceed what it used to be,” Gibson said.
Buchanan said he’s delighted by the warm reception he and his wife have received from the Paradise Lakes’ staff and community.
The previous owner of the resort, John Forier, died in a car accident Nov. 20, 2011. Before his death, Forier had announced plans for a $4 million makeover of the resort.
Buchanan said he won’t be pursuing Forier’s plans. However, he expects to make gradual improvements to yield the kind of place where people want to come and relax.
“Our goal is to fill this place up,” he said.
Buchanan also noted that the purchase included Pasco Naturally, a publication that serves nudists throughout North America. Buchanan plans to continue to publish it.
Community News Publications, which owns The Laker/Lutz News, sold Pasco Naturally in July 2009.