GOLDEN GATE ESTATES — So far, it's been "no sale" for two proposed shopping centers in Golden Gate Estates.
Voters approved one of the centers, but some neighbors say they don't mind if the project gets delayed — indefinitely.
"If they opened now, it would be very, very difficult for them. They may want to hold off. Nothing is happening and we all know why. It's the economy. We still haven't hit bottom yet," said Mark Teaters, founder of the Homeowners Association of Golden Gate Estates, who lives near the shopping center planned for the northwest corner of Golden Gate and Wilson boulevards.
The shopping center has almost all approvals, including voter support in 2010, followed by Collier County commissioners' approval for the 41-acre center in September 2011.
Commissioners submitted a county growth plan amendment for the project to the Florida Department of Community Affairs, which after a review had no objections. The project could span up to 190,000 square feet.
The developer, Crown Management Services, of Presto, Pa., had estimated its opening for fall 2013.
"We're still on track for the schedule we proposed," said Naples attorney Rich Yovanovich, representing Crown Management.
Meetings with representatives from grocery stores are ongoing, he said.
"I can't tell you who, as we have nothing signed," Yovanovich said.
Securing tenants is the highest priority and first in line must be a grocer.
"Hopefully, the economy won't get worse. We need to make sure we nail down the grocer and get enough tenants to make the first phase financially viable," he said.
Given the status, no site development plan, permit requests or other progress in the county application process has been made since the project garnered final county approval about nine months ago, Collier County government spokeswoman Connie Deane said.
Several Golden Gate Estates residents said they're instead looking forward to another shopping center that is planned on Randall Boulevard at Immokalee Road.
That shopping center plan isn't causing any concerns nor delays to Crown Management Services' plans for its shopping center at Wilson Boulevard, Yovanovich said.
Progress on the Randall plaza, to be developed by Emergent Development Group, seems to have slowed as well. Developers of the property also were in search of a grocer several months ago, but no such announcement has since been made.
The building permits for that plaza have expired, Deane said.
Golden Gate Estates residents said they're betting on the Randall Boulevard shopping center's success and its ability to draw a first-tier grocery store, such as Publix, before the Wilson Boulevard plaza will do so.
"My opinion on that is Publix and Sweetbay would more than likely choose a location like the Randall shopping center for their best bet. Location, location, location," said Annette Kniola, a member of the Homeowners Association of Golden Gate Estates.
Randall Boulevard would better fulfill the community's needs, Kniola said.
She would like to see a hair and nail salon, coffee shop, pizza parlor, mini movie theater, Chinese restaurant, liquor store, fine restaurant, dentist and a doctor there, she said.
"That should fulfill my needs until Walmart comes, anyway," Kniola said.
Teaters said he doesn't really need any of it.
"A lot of the residents go into town every day like I do. Who's going to do all their shopping in Golden Gate Estates?" Teaters asked rhetorically. "Most work in the urban area and drive past the supermarkets every day."
He and his wife prefer the quality provided by Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, stores that Golden Gate Estates cannot likely sustain, he said.
The challenges aren't shocking to the developers, Yovanovich said.
"I think a lot of people might be surprised that it takes time … We knew it was going to take some time and we knew the economy hadn't rebounded totally," he said.
After securing a grocer, the next priorities are a restaurant and a bank, he said.
"The developer is committed to making this happen. It takes time to get final commitments and we think we're still on track time-wise," Yovanovich said.