In the Know: Naples keeps stretching south on U.S. 41 toward Everglades City, with new stores and developments

Phil Fernandez Naples Daily NewsPublished 6:01 AM EDT Sep 21, 2020This past week, Jim Conway, echoed a similar

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This past week, Jim Conway, echoed a similar question that fellow Naples resident Terry Dunscombe had also been asking:

I see that Publix has just broken ground on their big new shopping center on U.S. 41, a few miles east and south of Collier Boulevard, near the big Fiddlers Creek complex. Since you appear to know almost everything, can you find out who else will be in that center and what their timing is? Thanks for the job you do. It's the 'go-to' feature in the Naples paper for a lot of us.

Yikes. Know everything? Now, that's a lot of pressure, but I will do my best, and thank you for the kind words.

First, true there's dirt moving around the nine acres of the Fiddler's Creek Plaza land, but we're a long way from seeing the doors swing open.

Public records show that it will be at least next year, partly because of the need to improve the adjacent intersection at Sandpiper Lane, which includes a traffic light upgrade.

And there's lots and lots of infrastructure to do in and around the site. The projected completion for utility work, which began about a week ago, is December.

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There are still a lot of permits that need approving. In fact, even the authorization for a construction trailer got rejected Thursday afternoon by the county, according to documents perused by In the Know. Everything's not ready yet, but the developers are optimistic.

The targeted finish is early Summer 2021 for the 63,000-square-foot shopping center, Halvorsen Development President Tom Vincent said Thursday.

"In addition to Publix, we will have (about) 12,000 square feet of retail space, and we have just begun our leasing effort," Halvorsen Real Estate's Tim Berg said Friday. After I asked, Berg added that those interested in setting up shop there can contact Justin Jones and Tucker Halvorsen at (561) 367-9200.

Building Publix anchors has become a specialty for the Boca Raton-based Halvorsen, with about eight of those going up in Collier and Lee counties in recent years, Berg said.

Of course subject to change, but Berg expects shoppers entering with their carts in late June. And look for additional developing beyond that, with outparcels and other opportunities.

Now this won't be just a regular every day Publix. 

"This is our latest prototype," Publix Community Relations Manager Brian S. West tells me, and it's larger than a typical one. "Customers familiar with Publix will immediately notice that the deli is completely on the sales floor, not against the wall like most of our locations. It’s a beautiful design and includes a mezzanine for customers to enjoy."

A mezzanine? Probably not what Warm Springs, Georgia boy George W. Jenkins envisioned when he opened the first one in Winter Haven 90 years ago this month.

As the furthest south Publix on our mainland western coast, with apologies to our friends on the barrier island of Marco Island, our new location will be a big help for Everglades City residents making the weekly journey to a major chain grocer.

Having a Publix less than a half-hour away shaves a few minutes off that drive, especially welcome during those pounding thunderstorms on the two-lane passage out of there.

And Everglades City, whether you like it or not, Naples appears to be moving toward you.

We just keep stretching and stretching and stretching what folks consider Naples.

For the longest time, the symbolic border had been at Collier Boulevard and Tamiami Trail, as stop signs gave way to a flashing light and now today's 83 lanes of traffic converging there.

Arguably the new border has moved almost 6.5 miles south of that intersection, and you can tell by all the new high walls going up along the way on the ever expanding highway.

That's where D.R. Horton and others will be building out the gated 343-house Royal Palm community adjacent to the Eagle Lakes Golf Club. Yeah, all the way down yonder.

So to picture how far we've extended the town, drive 6.5 miles the other way from Collier Boulevard toward downtown to get an even better sense of that distance, and what it might feel like once the eventual traffic signals are hung.

It's a long way. You'll go past the government administration building and Bayshore Drive and just short of Davis Boulevard and end up about at the newish building of ABC Fine Wine & Spirits. 

Or for those of us raised here, it's ABC Liquors, which would loudly proclaim "ABC is the place to be" in its radio ads when they all had those smoky, sticky bars in there offering 48-cent drinks in a tiny plastic cup and competing with rivals like the Crown Lounge.

And that's what we love about these snazzier Naples ABCs, long replacing its vertical green, red and blue stacked toy block letter signs. Even our liquor stores are fancy looking around here. If you look outside this region, it almost feels that some of the older ones appear as they did when the chain was founded in 1936, shortly after the end of prohibition. Marco's now among those with the more recent spiffier versions, too, debuting last year.

But there's no ABC just yet for the folks moving into the new Royal Palm community, where homes will sell later this year in the low $400,000s on the edge of Collier-Seminole State Park.

And there won't be a Publix liquor store either at the new store site, West tells me. Just a pharmacy to ease your pain.

If everything works out the way Gov. Ron DeSantis would like them to go, Royal Palm residents may eventually be able to pick up the toll parkway further south at State Road 29, where some expressway task members have said it should connect.

More of In the Know:

  • Check out four dozen previous columns and other work by Phil Fernandez
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  • Will we get not one, but two toll expressways?

Pandemic? What pandemic?

If there's any evidence that the coronavirus crisis hasn't slowed down construction, look no further than Owen-Ames-Kimball.

The employee-owned general contractor has moved to new digs in Naples to accommodate the firm's growth in Collier.

"O-A-K has been expanding its presence in Collier County with a series of new construction projects, and we've hired additional team members," said Dale Dean, president of O-A-K, which has been operating in Southwest Florida since 1982. "The larger office provides more space to continue serving the Naples community for years to come."

O-A-K has 16 employees who work from its Naples office, and the company recently brought in three additional hires, according to spokeswoman Elly Hagen.

The 3,350-square-foot workplace is located at 5100 Tamiami Trail N., Suite 103, just southeast of U.S. 41 and Pine Ridge Road. It's just around the corner from the company's former home on Castello Drive.

Some of O-A-K's local projects include Community School of Naples, North Naples United Methodist Church, Guadalupe Center's Early Learning Center, Marco Island Marriott Resort, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Moorings Presbyterian Church, Naples Municipal Airport, Cypress Palm Middle School, Sugden Community Theatre and continuing projects for Collier County Public Schools.

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  • Moratorium on some Collier development?

Planning Commission vacancy

Readers had alerted In the Know of County Commissioner Bill McDaniel's plan to designate someone outside his District 5 for the vacancy on the planning board, which plays a key role in vetting Collier growth and development.

The item was placed in the commission's most recent consent agenda, which is normally reserved for routine items, including the additional provision to have the waiving of the residency requirement.

McDaniel, who represents a large chunk of eastern Collier, had had the county staff get all the necessary 14 pieces of paperwork ready to go to authorize former Lely Development Corp. president Richard Lee Klaas for the role.

The nominee lives off Gulf Shore Boulevard North, not quite 10 miles from the district line and about a half-hour and more drive to the largest population centers of the area he was to represent, including Immokalee, Ave Maria, the Orangetree area and a lot of Golden Gate.

But that changed after residents contacted county officials to express their concerns, especially considering all the growth slated to occur in that region including in the massive Rural Lands Stewardship Area, also known as the RLSA.

"I had a lot of communication with my community and my constituents," McDaniel said, as he pulled it off the agenda at the Sept. 8 meeting.

He dropped the nomination, and said he would bring the issue back to Tuesday's meeting.

"Emails from voters do work sometimes," reader Martha McKee told me.

McDaniel's new selection: Attorney Robert L. Klucik Jr., who has served on a variety of county and Ave Maria boards, and moved to that latter community in 2007 with his wife and seven children in 2007 as one of its first residents.

It sounds like it might be a good day for lawyers joining the panel. County commissioners Tuesday are also slated to choose Christopher T. Vernon and reappoint Ned Fryer, both legal practitioners for several decades. Could become its own law firm over there.

The planning commission next meets at 9 a.m. Friday as part of a continuation of last week's public hearing on new rules related to building and paving within the 185,000 acres of the RLSA.

Based at the Naples Daily News, Columnist Phil Fernandez ( writes In the Know as part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. Support Democracy and subscribe to a newspaper.
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