The Sandcastle Resort, which incorporates the enormous former Royal Coachman Motel, dominates the Provincetown side of Beach Point. Like any beachside resort, the Sandcastle stresses the pleasant fantasy of getaway: “What’s at the end of your rainbow?” its promotional video asks. But life behind the scenes hasn’t been so carefree in recent years. The Sandcastle is part timeshare, part condo, part transient accommodation; a complex formula bound to create confusion and tension. Indeed, a change of ownership in 2008 exposed stark differences among the many stakeholders and provoked accusations and suspicions on all sides. Such a situation couldn’t help but affect the Sandcastle’s standing among visitors. It should be noted, however, that this property has come through dark days before.
The centerpiece of the complex is the Royal Coachman Building, 927R Commercial, a three-story structure shaped like an I-beam in plan, with the southern flange offering an incomparable waterfront exposure. The central pavilion is 215 feet long. There are 114 rooms, according to the assessor’s office. In other words: by town standards, it’s big. Credit for its construction was given by The Cape Cod Times to John J. Taylor (d 2004), a longtime Cape Cod developer and owner. It was originally a Howard Johnson’s motel, Stephen Magnotta told me, before becoming an independent known as the Royal Coachman, or the Carlton House Royal Coachman, which charged $30 to $45 a night (double occupancy) in 1974. That’s about $140 to $210 in 2012 dollars.
Easily the most traumatic day in the Royal Coachman’s history was 7 October 1977 [?], when an arsonist set fire to the wooden building, destroying nearly half of the structure. A salesman from Boston who was staying there — probably one of very few guests at that time of year — had to jump from his third-floor window to escape the blaze. (Pru Sowers, “Arson’s Insidious Flames Scorch Town’s History,” The Banner, 6 December 2007.)
The year 1977 was also eventful in that two of the most important operators in the Mayflower Heights-Beach Point area, the McCabes (the Tides, 837 Commercial) and the Sateriales (the Breakwater, 716 Commercial, and the Holiday Inn, 698 Commercial), purchased the 4.7-acre lot including the Royal Coachman and two other motel buildings (presumably the Dunes Building and 911 Commercial Street). Two years later, they converted the Royal Coachman into a condominium whose trustees included Joseph B. McCabe, Wayne T. McCabe, Fred E. Sateriale and Fred E. Sateriale III. Seemingly well ahead of its time, the Royal Coachman offered timesharing, or interval ownership, which it advertised as early as the 1981 Chamber of Commerce annual guide, now under the name Sandcastle. In 1987, Ernest J. Carteris (1936-2008) moved his Pronto restaurant here from 315 Commercial.
The great shakeup occurred in September 2008 when an entity called New England Vacation Services L.L.C. acquired the both Sandcastle Resort and the South Cape (Southcape) Resort in Mashpee from a group of owners including Vincent J. Barth and Robert P. Woods. Leading the acquisition as the managing general partner was Clifford Hagberg, who had been an owner at Sandcastle since 1988.
“Not only were all of the unit interiors seriously outdated, but they were in bad shape externally,” Hagberg was quoted as saying in the July 2011 issue of The Resort Trades. “Wooden balconies were in danger of collapsing, roofs leaked, buildings were literally falling down and many of the septic systems were overflowing. Instead of maintaining common areas like the owners’ activities lounge, previous management had simply locked the doors and ignored them! The place was getting ready to literally disintegrate and collapse without some serious renovations.” There were deep-seated financial troubles at the Sandcastle and Southcape, too. “Both resorts were running an operating loss in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for many years,” Hagberg said in the January-February 2010 issue of TimeSharing Today.
Hagberg was responding to the anger of timeshare owners about special assessments, ranging from $400 to $900. That wasn’t all they were upset about. A timeshare users’ group was set up in 2008 to detail their complaints. TimeSharing Today reported their assertions that an outside company was “using high-pressure sales tactics, threats, lies and half truths in order to coerce owners into turning over their deeded property” and converting it into a timesharing points system. “We categorically deny the allegations of high-pressure sales tactics, threats, lies and half truths,” Hagberg responded. “No one is being coerced.” He went on to say, “There is no ‘blatant take over,’ just a legitimate process of ownership transfer that happens every day in the timeshare business.” To the question of control of the property, another highly contested point, Hagberg said, “As the developer inventory finally gets sold (the former developer made little attempt to sell the inventory in the past 20 years), control will be turned over to the owners and elections will be held for new trustees.”
In 2010, Hagberg reported, “Both resorts now have a balanced budget, and reserve accounts have been established.” In 2011, he cited the accomplishment at the Sandcastle of refurbishing the [Royal Coachman/Dunes?] building with new shingles and new decks, rehabilitating the hot tub and snack bar, renovating several smaller buildings and opening new rental units [in the 911 Commercial Street building?].