Stuart News
Kate Grusich - Staff Writer
August 17, 2005


A former junkyard near Stuart is about to become a multimillion-dollar sanctuary for yachts. 

But whatever you do, don't call the soon-to-open River Forest Yachting Center a boatyard or marina. 
The correct phrase is "long-term boat storage facility." 

"We are not going to look or act like a boatyard," said owner Joe Charles. "There's nothing like this around. It's going to look nice and be nice...We're taking the hassle out of owning a boat." 

Workers have put in long sweaty days to ensure the upscale boating center is up and running by month's end. 

Located at 9150 S.W. Pennsylvania Ave., River Forest is nestled in a 9-acre freshwater lagoon area connected to the St. Lucie Canal by a 700-foot channel. 

The project, valued at about $5 million, features a 45,000-square-foot, climate-controlled building for larger boats, decorated with green awnings and balcony railings. Two smaller buildings will be used for boat storage and maintenance work. 

Detailed landscaping and a picnic area near the canal also are included in project plans. 

Previously a junkyard, the property was purchased in 2003 for $1.25 million, property records show. Construction began in mid-February. 

Although it has yet to open, about a dozen boats already have been dropped off at the facility. Between indoor, outdoor and on-the-water spots, River Forest soon will have the space to accommodate about 200 boats, Charles said. 

For those hoping to join the center's "Hurricane Club," the clock is ticking. About 60 have already signed up, and will pay annual dues ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. Membership ensures wet or dry boat storage on-site in case of a hurricane. 

River Forest services include boat detailing, bottom painting, fueling and propeller work. Other assistance also will be available by arrangement, such as boat pickup and delivery and transportation to and from the yachting facility. 

"We can pick people up from the airport if need be," said general manager John Smith, adding a staff of about 10 to 12 employees eventually will help run the day-to-day operation. 

"We really want to accommodate our customers." 

For information on rentals or general facilities operations, call (772) 225-5250 or visit


Stuart News
Kate Gruish - Staff Writer
March 19, 2005


Joe Charles always struggled to find a storage spot for his boat during the summer months. The lack of local options meant the boat wound up spending summers in the back yard of his Jupiter home — a less-than-ideal location.

'It sits out there and rots,' said the part-time resident. 'And then, every time there is a hurricane threat, we have to have the neighbors help out and keep an eye on it.'StuartNews

Charles finally found a solution for his frustration, however, one he hopes will ease the minds of many other boat-loving seasonal residents.
He plans to open the River Forest Yachting Center near Stuart by late May, with space to accommodate 200 to 250 boats.

'This is not a marina,' said Charles, founder and CEO of Charles Industries Ltd., a Rolling Meadows, Ill.-based manufacturer of telecommunications equipment. 'It's a long-term storage summer boat facility. It really caters to those who go North or leave for the summer ... There's nothing like it around.'

The center, at 9150 S.W. Pennsylvania Ave., is nestled in a 9-acre, hurricane-protected freshwater lagoon area connected to the St. Lucie Canal by a 700-foot channel.

The nearly $5 million project includes a 45,000-square-foot, climate-controlled building for larger boats, as well as two smaller buildings for boat storage and maintenance work.

Previously a junkyard, the property was purchased in May 2003. Charles received the last of the necessary permits in February and expects to open in time for hurricane season.

Although the project took shape before last summer's storms, its taken on importance in light of the damage to area marinas. Statewide, marina owners have provided loss estimates totaling about $40 million. Along the Treasure Coast, all 27 members of the area's marine association reported damage.

In response, Charles has created and patented the 'Hurricane Club.' Group members are ensured wet or dry boat storage at River Forest in the case of a hurricane.

'When a hurricane is on the way, everyone is trying to find a place to take their boat,' said Charles. 'This guarantees you have a spot for your boat.'

Annual membership will range from $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the size of the vessel. Charles said the club also can help decrease insurance premiums about 20 percent, by meeting insurance hurricane storage provisions. Charles said he's already receiving requests about hurricane club membership.

Once open, other River Forest services will include boat detailing, bottom painting, fueling and propeller work. Maintenance, repair and other services will be available by arrangement.

'It's hassle-free storage,' said Charles. 'We want people who store here to feel comfortable. We're very excited about it.'

Lori Becker - Palm Beach Post Columnist
January 03, 2005


Winter resident Joe Charles wanted a better place to store his boat for the summer. Tired of leaving his 56-foot Neptunus Express behind his house in Jupiter, he decided to build his own marina.
Charles plans to open the River Forest Yachting Center this spring in Stuart. The $4 million project will sit on 8 1/2 acres off the St. Lucie Canal on Pennsylvania Avenue, just north of State Road 76A.

"My wife and I have been looking for a place for years. We finally found one, but we had to do it ourselves," said Charles, 65.
The marina will feature a 45,000-square-foot air-conditioned building for summer storage of large boats. It will also include two smaller buildings for boat storage and maintenance.

The facility, connected to the canal by a 700-foot-long channel, is aimed at larger boats from 30 to 50 feet, Charles said.

For $4 a square foot, seasonal boaters won't have to worry about sun or water damage to their vessels while they're away.

"The sun tears them up, and the barnacles grow on the bottom," Charles said. "Having them in a climate-controlled building for six months of the year greatly enhances the life."

But after September's twin hurricanes wiped out marinas along the Treasure Coast, River Forest is also selling itself as a storm shelter.

The boatyard, a mile west of the St. Lucie Locks, will have dry storage for up to 300 boats.

Boaters can pay to reserve a dry slip to move their vessels to in case of a hurricane.

"It's a safe harbor so we can get people out of those (coastal) marinas and get them up the river," Charles said.

Gary Guertin, vice president of the Marine Industries Association of the Treasure Coast, said the inland storage would a plus for local boaters.

"The more boats that are taken out of harm's way, the better," he said. 

Charles, who splits time between Jupiter and Chicago, is chief executive officer of Rolling Meadows, Ill.-based Charles Industries, which makes electronic equipment for the telecommunications and marine industries. He bought the former Foster Dredge property in May 2003.

Charles expects to get final approval this week from Martin County so he can begin construction.


March, 2005


Chris Kauffmann - Staff WriterJanuary 12, 2004


This is no snow job.

Part-time Jupiter resident Joe Charles is planning a 45,000-square-foot, climate-controlled boat storage facility west of Stuart that will be primarily marketed to seasonal residents. 
"It's snowbird boat storage," said Charles, who is the founder and chief executive officer of Rolling Meadows, Ill.-based Charles Industries Ltd., a manufacturer of telephone equipment. "Boating is a pleasure and you shouldn't have to worry about where you store your boat in the summer. This is hassle-free storage."

Charles got the idea for River Forest Yachting Center -- to be located on the nine-acre Foster Dredge property on Pennsylvania Avenue -- after encountering problems storing his own boat when he was ready to head back north. The cost of storage depends on the size of boat, but Charles said the price will likely range from $800 to $1,500 per month with a minimum rental of five months. 

With zoning approval already in hand, Charles hopes to have the facility open by late spring 2005.

Storage Contact

Tracy L. Campbell

Director of Client Services
P: 772-287-4131
F: 772-287-4148

LaBelle Contact

John J. Helfrich

LaBelle Manager
P: 863-612-0003
F: 863-612-9292

Stuart Contact

George F. Wharton

Stuart Manager
P: 772-287-4131
F: 772-287-4148

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