Trader Joe's set to open, will traffic light at U.S. 41 and Creekside be needed?

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Trader Joe's as it got set to open Feb. 10 in North Naples.

Photo by SCOTT MCINTYRE

Trader Joe's as it got set to open Feb. 10 in North Naples.

The grocer – opening Friday, Feb. 10, – is replacing a Borders bookstore in North Naples that went dark last year. The store is off Creekside Boulevard, just east of U.S. 41 in the Granada Shoppes.

— Trader Joe's is creating a buzz.

Soon it might be creating something else: traffic jams.

With the much-anticipated opening of its first store in Florida a few days away, loyal fans are lining up to be among the first shoppers.

The grocer – opening Friday, Feb. 10, – is replacing a Borders bookstore in North Naples that went dark last year. The store is off Creekside Boulevard, just east of U.S. 41 in the Granada Shoppes.

Heading south on U.S. 41, there's a left-hand turn lane to reach Creekside Boulevard. Cars cross three lanes of northbound traffic to get there.

"At this point, it hasn't been an intersection of concern," said Connie Deane, a Collier County transportation spokeswoman. That means there haven't been enough accidents or back-ups to set off any alarms.

The Florida Department of Transportation approved a traffic light for the intersection years ago.

"It doesn't necessarily mean there will be a traffic signal there. Other things could occur. It's one of those — it could happen, it may not happen," Deane said.

Whether it happens will be based on need — and if a traffic signal gets installed it won't be the state or county government that pays for it. Private businesses would share the cost of the signal, including the developer of the Granada Shoppes and one of its neighbors, the Naples Daily News, Deane said.

If a traffic signal gets installed at U.S. 41 North and Creekside Boulevard, it won't be the state or county government that pays for it. Private businesses would share the cost of the signal, including the developer of the Granada Shoppes and one of its neighbors, the Naples Daily News.

The cost is estimated at $500,000.

The cost is estimated at $500,000, she said.

"If it's determined that a traffic signal is needed then funding would come through the different developments because they are the ones that are generating the traffic," she said. "If that shopping center wasn't there, if those developments weren't there, then there wouldn't be a need for a traffic signal at that location."

The cost-share agreements for the signal are wrapped up in the planned unit developments, or PUDs, the county approved for several projects — including the Naples Daily News headquarters, which has a back entrance off Creekside Boulevard. PUDs offer more flexible uses than regular zoning.

Rod Castan, a president of leasing and management services for Miami-based Courtelis Co., the developer of Granada Shoppes, said his company worked with an engineering firm that determined there's a need for a traffic light at the intersection.

"There was sufficient demand for it," he said.

His company favors putting a traffic light at the intersection and working with the county staff and other property owners to get one installed, he said.Kelly Benson, director of operations at the Naples Daily News, said she received a call this past week from a county transportation official, who told her that a traffic signal or new directional turn lanes on U.S. 41 "would be up for discussion."

"They've been looking at it," she said. "They are really in the process of discussing what the solution is."

Dave Borden, vice president for commercial real estate for Barron Collier Cos. in Naples, which sold the land in the Creekside Commerce Park to the Daily News for its new headquarters, declined to comment, referring questions about intersection improvements to Castan at Courtelis Co.

Barron Collier Cos., which still owns land in the Creekside Commerce Park, may have to share the cost of the traffic signal if it gets built, Deane said.

The county staff hasn't done its own analysis to see if a traffic light is warranted, but it could if the intersection becomes more congested with the opening of Trader Joe's.

A new traffic study wasn't required for Trader Joe's.

"This is the re-use of a current site, so there is not a site development plan for just this business," Deane explained. "The site development plan was done years ago for the entire shopping center."

The county staff hasn't done its own analysis to see if a traffic light is warranted, but it could if the intersection becomes more congested with the opening of Trader Joe's.

"It takes time to do all of the different parts of a warrant analysis," Deane said.

Trader Joe's has a cult-like following and it's coming to Naples because there are so many "foodies in the area," said Alison Mochizuki, a spokeswoman for the trendy grocery store chain.

The grocer, headquartered in Monrovia, Calif., carries the basics, along with exotic foods. Most of the store's groceries — about 80 percent — are sold under the Trader Joe's name. Some of the more popular items include a roasted seaweed snack and a truffle mousse pate made out of chicken. The chain is also known for its bargain wines.

Store employees wear Hawaiian-themed shirts, as "traders on the culinary seas."

Trader Joe's footprint is smaller than the bookstore that was there before. The grocery store takes up 14,000 square feet – 8,000 square feet less than the Borders did.

Borders had to provide 148 parking spaces for its larger store – and it had 163 spaces. The requirements for parking are the same for a retail store as they are for supermarkets – one space for every 250 square feet.

Borders had to provide 148 parking spaces for its larger store – and it had 163 spaces. The requirements for parking are the same for a retail store as they are for supermarkets – one space for every 250 square feet, Deane said.

"With any new business you are going to have some attraction of new interest at the start," she said. "It might slack off after a while. We will have to see how things turn out."

Trader Joe's has two neighbors sharing its parking lot: Encore National Bank and Sprint. The manager for the Sprint store declined to comment.

Tom Ray, president of Encore, said the opening of Trader Joe's is all good in his eyes: "I don't see how it would be a negative for us. I do think the initial opening will create a crush of people. But I'm not sure."

He said Borders did bring in quite a bit of traffic, though much of it wasn't during banking hours. The full-service bank office has been given two 15-minute parking spaces in anticipation of more daytime traffic at its end of the shopping center.

"The average banking transaction is shorter than the average grocery stay," Ray noted.

He's happy to see the empty store space filled, taking it as a good sign for the local economy.

"Any green shoot is a good shoot," he said.

He has no complaints about seeing more traffic. He just hopes Trader Joe's employees will use the parking behind the store.

"I understand there may be some inconveniences, but I certainly am not going to stand in the way of a good thing," Ray said.

__ Connect with Laura Layden at www.naplesnews.com/staff/laura_layden

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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