NAPLES — Construction at a Naples shopping plaza along U.S. 41 has left businesses there financially wrecked, some store owners say.
The new 56,000-square-foot hybrid Publix in the Naples Plaza — across 41 from Coastland Center mall — is expected to open by early December. Store owners and managers throughout the plaza say business has suffered dramatically — some by as much as a 50 percent decrease — because of the construction.
Others say the work will be well worth it, just in time for season.
"It's the summer, so it's a slow time anyway," said Dur Jonah, the China Empire restaurant manager since 2004.
Business is down about 15 percent from a year ago, she said.
"It will be good later," she added. "This is just temporary."
Others have asked their landlord, Brixmor Property Group, to give them a break on rent until construction is finished. Tony and Tammy Train, owners of Fancy Nails and Skin Care, have had their store in the Naples Plaza for 10 years and say that their business has plummeted by 50 percent from this time a year ago.
"Every day business is totally dead," Tony Train said. "We only get a couple customers a day and it's all because of the construction. Everybody has to make a living, I got four kids. I called the landlord to make an offer that they cut the rent, maybe by half. We haven't heard anything from them."
Stacy Slater, senior vice president of investment management for Brixmor, said the first four to six weeks of any project are the most difficult for tenants. Brixmor, which owns the Naples Plaza, is the second largest owner of community and neighborhood shopping centers in the United States. The company has 620 locations in 39 states and specializes in redevelopment.
Slater declined to discuss tenant and landlord negotiations, referring to rent.
"When this project is done it will be the absolute premier shopping center in the area," Slater said. "With these types of projects there are always going to be complaints and issues and I think we've done a pretty good job of addressing them. The timing was designed between Publix and us to work during the slow season."
In October, Naples City Council approved a request to demolish and rebuild the Publix. The new, hybrid store will feature extensive specialty items as well as organic and natural food products. It will be about 11,000 square feet larger than the average Publix store.
It will be similar to the hybrid Publix on the southwest corner Vanderbilt Beach and U.S. 41.
"Our customers in that area have told us that they want to explore an array of foods and services in one location. That's what they will get with this store," Publix spokeswoman Shannon Patten said.
Other changes include the addition of West Marine, the largest boating supply company in the world, which will now occupy the space where Books-A-Million was previously in the plaza. Books-A-Million closed April 21 with no plans of reopening there.
West Marine has more than 300 stores in 38 states, Puerto Rico and Canada, including 10 locations in Southwest Florida.
Some observers at the site also have wondered whether work crews are creating a driving path in the middle of the plaza. Slater said those instead will be two "breeze paths" so people can walk from the back of the plaza outside to the front.
Slater said the project has been in the works for more than two years and that tenants were informed every step along the way.
At least one store official said the face-lift will be good for business.
"The signage will look much better," said Ed LaPierre, general manager of the PGA Tour Superstore.
"It will tie in with the new Publix, so we're excited about the new look of the mall and it will bring some added life to the center for sure."