Linger Lodge Restaurant & RV Campground Approaches to Reopening at Lakewood Ranch | East County

If you walk around the Linger Lodge property or have been there recently, chances are you won’t recognize much outside of the iconic restaurant building.

That’s because the property has undergone a major renovation that will see more camping space, a clubhouse, swimming pool, nature trails, a new public bath and more.

This long-held vision is set to become a reality for Austrian businessman Franz Hartl and his family, whose real estate River Loft LLC purchased Linger Lodge Restaurant & RV Campground in 2016.

“When we bought the property, there was a lot of reluctance telling us not to change anything,” said Philipp Hartl, who is the son of Franz Hartl. “Everyone said to leave it like Old Florida and I think that was our goal… to preserve as much of the beauty of nature that is here.”

The project consists of two key parts: the reconstruction of the motorhome fleet, which now includes a clubhouse, baths and an office building; and the reconstruction of the parking lot.

The number of RV sites has grown from 100 to 140. Linger Lodge began as a campground in 1945 and has grown into a restaurant and RV park.

The new RV includes land at the rear of the property that originated from the purchase of lots outside of the original property line. All spots will have access to water and electricity. Some of the old spots were unusable due to utility outages. Now they will be steps away from a new bath. Shell roads will be installed towards the end of the project.

“The shell roads will help keep the Old Florida look,” Hartl said. “We are putting trees back in place. We’ve tried to conserve as many trees as possible, but it’s tricky when you need to install power lines and manage root systems. It’ll look great when it’s done.

A new clubhouse including a large reception hall, gym, kitchen, swimming pool and tiki hut will be the heart of the new Linger Lodge campground.

A large clubhouse with an event hall that can accommodate parties, bingo games or sporting events is being built in the RV park. It will also have a kitchen that can manage catering and a gym. A nature trail will be built along the edge of the Braden River which leads to the quays behind the restaurant. Hartl said the docks would be updated to allow boat access from the river.

A brand new paved parking lot awaits diners to return to the Linger Lodge restaurant. The old dirt field was easily washed away during the torrential rains.

Another novelty will be a large swimming pool that will be built at the clubhouse, which is built with pillars that retain the Old Florida style.

“There will be a spa, tiki hut, and chairs where you can sit and relax,” Hartl said. “You will be able to see down to the river and soak up the sun.”

One thing that won’t change is the Linger Lodge restaurant itself. It will still be managed by Ruth Hofer, who said many people have contacted Linger Lodge with concerns that the restaurant will change as part of the renovations. The restaurant has been closed since August 2020.

“As soon as we have this parking lot where we can close it, or don’t worry about people getting into the RV park construction, we’re going to open the restaurant,” Hartl said. “We hope it may be at the end of February. “

The old parking lot was a dirt lot that turned into a muddy mess when it rained and didn’t have proper lighting.

Despite all the changes to the Linger Lodge campsite, the legendary restaurant remains intact and largely unchanged.

“We are installing the appropriate side lighting to make it safer for entering guests,” Hartl said.

Supply chain and personnel issues caused delays in the project. Team Stellar did most of the work on the project, which was estimated to be over $ 5 million.

“The crews struggled to find (workers), but they did a great job,” Hartl said. “Considering the circumstances, I think it’s the best they can do. They were phenomenal.

The Linger Lodge campground has been modernized and will now have 140 sites with water, sewer and electricity connections.

Hartl said people were happy with the way the restaurant was updated before it closed. He said the same would be true when the entire restaurant and campsite is operational.

“It was delicate and we had to face many challenges to achieve it,” he said. “But coming here every day you see how things go and start to fall into place. You will see that the buildings still have that old Florida look after they have been painted. It is a huge improvement for the whole region. It will be beautiful.

Hartl took one last look at the property from the restaurant steps before leaving the area for the holidays. After thinking for a second, he offered a glimpse into the future.

“When you stand here, and once the plants are in and the trees are back, you’ll look like you’re in the jungle,” he said. “But if you take a drone and fly up to 30 feet, you’re actually in the middle of Lakewood Ranch. It makes us very happy that we managed to keep it that way, especially given the size of this area. “

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