Lower Expenses And Higher Profit Margins For RV Developments Is Robert Lewis’ Specialty
Robert Lewis has been designing and building mobile home and RV resort developments for nearly 40 years. When he set out to build his first project in Bullhead City, Arizona - a Colorado River community located close to where Arizona, Nevada and California meet - he visited 15 successful resorts with at least 250 spaces throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area and Tucson, Arizona, and surveyed the staff, residents and visitors to learn what makes this type of development successful. Here’s what Robert asked everyone he spoke with:
- What do you like the most about this resort?
- What do you like the least about this resort?
- If you won a $1 million lotto and money was no object, what would you change or improve?
- What do you think could be done to cut costs and increase revenue?
“I discovered that most of the people who work at RV resorts are retired people who were successful in a business or profession. They’re driving around in a million-dollar RV, they have a clue,” he explains. “With this knowledge, I designed and started grading on a 640-unit condo park – we would be selling the lots. It would be built in two phases. It’s a 5-star resort with loads of amenities, including a large pool and spa, an indoor dance hall that holds 400 people, eight classrooms for lapidary, ceramics, leather work sewing, quilting, a billiard room, card room, gym and aerobics rooms, shuffleboard, a library and more.”
This was Fiesta RV Resort, which opened in the mid-1980s and still is known as one of the best RV resorts in the region. Robert sold the project before construction was completed and moved on to his next adventure in commercial development.
Robert turned his talents to retail and in 1986 managed site location, zoning and government approvals, and rough grading for Riverview Mall in Bullhead City, then negotiated the contract to bring in the first 24-hour Walmart in the world. The open-air mall included apparel and shoe stores, a supermarket, several specialty stores, eateries. Strategically located pads resulted in the construction of a KFC, Jack In The Box, bank, auto parts store and medical offices.
“In 1989 I purchased Silver Creek RV Park and increased the number of spaces to 140, updated the power grid and water supply, enlarged the laundry, redid the pool and spa area and we went from 50-percent occupancy to 106 percent – people were paying rent to stay in the holding areas while waiting for a space to open up but they got to use using all the facilities,” Robert says.
“We cleaned the park up, did all these things to improve it, raised the rents 30 percent and then filled it to 106 percent, which was hard for our accountant to grasp. We added more profit centers , such as adding beer and wine sales and more products in the convenience store and increasing the number of washers and dryers.”
The park went from dirt roads with under-build water and power grids to a thriving RV park with an expanded convenience store, remodeled laundry, shower and restroom facilities, resurfaced pool, newly-paved roads and more space for paying tenants, resulting in expanded returns on investments during Robert’s 10 years of insightful management.
When Bullhead City’s original Walmart outgrew its space in Riverview Mall, Robert found the corporation a new site at the corner of Highway 95 and Mohave Drive. He negotiated with the city for tax incentives to insure the future of the development and literally moved a mountain and to create a new 25+-acre shopping center for Super Walmart and four other strip-mall developments which now house two banks, medical offices, restaurants and specialty stores like Game Stop and AT&T.
“The site was a 90-foot mountain with 1.2 million cubic yards of dirt to be removed and relocated to construct the first Super Walmart in Arizona. The store opened in 2000 and soon became one of the best per-square-foot producers in the Western U.S. for the corporation.”
Robert’s expertise brought in Weinerschnitzel and Panda Express restaurants in the Super Walmart plaza and stand-alone Walgreen’s, Taco Bell and Arby’s locations nearby along Arizona Highway 95.
In 2002 Robert acquired 98 acres of land and designed a master-planned community with a 33-acre RV resort, a 240-unit condo project on 12 acres and 53 acres for industrial and manufacturing uses.
“I designed and master-planned a 33-acre, 450-space RV resort that would own all its own roads and utilities. Phase 1 included 151 RV spaces, pool and spa, restrooms, laundry, a clubhouse with a library, billiard and card tables, and a convenience store and deli with an apartment above it for the manager or owner.”
The resort opened in 2003 ahead of schedule with 151 spaces with full utilities plus 200 dry-camping sites.
“We expanded as the spaces filled, adding gazebos and park areas with barbecues throughout the resort, and three years later we added 34 spaces on the bluff, brought in park models and added a large dog fenced dog run.”
These new spaces featured amazing views of the Colorado River and surrounding mountains and quickly became sought-after with a waiting list. By 2008 Phase 3 was in full swing with the addition of 84 more RV spaces and a second clubhouse with a gym, additional laundry, shower and restroom facilities, a multi-purpose room for arts and crafts. Between Phase 2 and 3, 140 30-foot date palms were brought in from the Palm Springs area that originally were planted in the 1936s. Rose bushes and flowering plants, fruit trees and shade trees were planted thanks to 6 miles of irrigation lines, and more gazebos with barbecues were added throughout the development. The resort boasts more than a mile of walking trails within the enclosed area and a large dry-storage area for boats and RVs.
Robert Lewis sold Silver View RV Resort in 2019 and embarked upon a new direction. Now semi-retired, Robert spends his time traveling in his fifth-wheel “mobile office” and providing RV Park owners throughout the Southwest and Pacific Northwest with tips to better monetize their projects. He also works with developers, doing feasibility studies and market analysis to help ensure the best ROI possible.
Traveling to new places, spending time in the great outdoors and fishing in lakes, rivers and streams is his new passion. He’ll be sharing his adventures in the blog on this site, as well as offering tips to help RV Park owners get more out of their investment on the Tips For RV Park Owners page.
Silver Creek RV Park