By Donna Fiala
What fun it will be to write this column! First and foremost, no matter where I go people ask me what is happening with the old “skeleton building” at the corner of Davis Boulevard and 951/Collier Boulevard, the old, almost decaying structure that has been sitting there as a greeting to all of us. Well, I got the happiest call I’ve had in a long time. The owner of the site, the Benderson Company, was nice enough to call to let me know they finally have a great business who will be building on that site: BJ’s Wholesale Club. I am not acquainted with that company, but from what others have told me, they are similar to Costco. It will be so nice to see some action taking place in a positive direction on that property. What a great location too! They will draw from Golden Gate City and the Estates, East Naples, Marco Island, the City of Naples, etc. I want to personally thank the Benderson Company for reaching out to let us know things are moving in a positive direction.
*Many of you have wondered over the last few years what will happen to the old outlet mall on 951/Collier Boulevard. Well, it’s now been sold! The new owners are going through the beginning of the permits needed to update the mall, preserve the good businesses that are there, contact new businesses who could be interested, and upgrade the appearance to the mall in general. The ownership group has informed me that the initial phase of improvements will be completed by season, with a grand opening party for the soon to be rebranded center, early in the season. Think food entertainment and fun! As they give me information, I will pass it along to you or look for the Naples Outlet Center on social media for updates. It pleases me to no end that these new owners of shopping centers call to let us know they will be forming new plans for improving or upgrading their investments, and giving us some new places to shop! They have been needed for a long time. Just look at the success of each and every new business that has come to that corridor – the 951/US 41 area. A fast look shows you what success looks like: Carrabba’s, Outback, Fresh Market, Burger Fi, Stein Mart, Lowe’s, and on and on. Each one has been more than successful, and attracted much more business than they had envisioned!
*Speaking of shopping centers, the old K-Mart in Freedom Square is moving up to the front line, looking for a new tenant. The shopping center representative called to talk about ideas I might have heard, and I was happy to oblige. Many of you have given me ideas over the last couple of years, which I have now passed along, but I’m always ready to hear more and pass them along as well. I mentioned that the loud cry has been for a very nice dining establishment. From Marco Island through the City of Naples, to Naples Lakes Country Club to Verona Walk, to Forest Glen and also Lely Resort – All have been asking for some really nice upscale eating establishments. I’m not sure if the size of the old K-Mart will fit that bill, but I passed the idea along anyway.
*You’ve read about the new Restaurant Row coming next to Freedom Square shopping center, and we had high hopes of some really nice upscale eating establishments coming to the area, but it looks like most will only be of the take-out quality, except for Texas Roadhouse. We were all rooting for PF Chang’s but that didn’t happen, and instead, from what I’ve been told, there will be a little restaurant – their smaller, take-out style with a few tables called PeiWei Asian Diner. I even contacted their home office, as others of you did, but I guess we were too late to get the job done. Others in the “Row” will include Pollo Tropical, Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Starbucks.
*And another great surprise, and one I’m thrilled about, is the entrance of Skillet’s! There are a few of these marvelous restaurants up in the north end of town, but they had no plans to come to our end of the county until Brian Stock from Lely Resort worked with them to entice them to come to this area. They will hold a choice spot in the new shopping center just built by Stock Development across the street from Verona Walk. Skillet’s is a breakfast/lunch place of superb quality. Once you eat there you’ll make them a regular stop, and just wait till they see how we’ll knock their socks off – just like we did with Carrabba’s, Outback, Burger Fi, Fresh Market, Stein Mart, etc. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again! This intersection is fast becoming a very important business and retail center for the entire area.
*A new Physician’s Regional Walk-In Clinic at US 41E and Rattlesnake Hammock Road, behind the CVS Pharmacy, will hold their Grand Opening Ribbon Cutting on Wednesday, Sept. 7th at 10 AM. What an ideal location and easily accessible! There is lots of activity in the area with plenty of children, a number of schools nearby including a high school, a middle school and three elementary schools, plus two parks and a huge pickleball group, with their national tournament played at the park. For those who are listening: Now we need a boutique hotel close by to make the picture even more attractive. Maybe a nice Marriott Garden Suites or a boutique Hilton in the empty space behind the Culver’s, next to Minto’s Isles of Collier Preserve and close to all of that pickleball activity being planned to take place year-round, with new programs in the works.
*On a personal note, it was so much fun watching Jack Patterson on his birthday, along with Larry Honig, Charlette Roman, Dick and Debra Shanahan, Roger Withers and Craig and Bonnie Woodward, etc. I felt like a fly on the wall watching all the laughter and frivolity! Happy Birthday to a great guy, even though it’s a little late. Jack, you’re the best!