The merchants of Island Plaza want you to know they are still open during the remodeling work being done at the center.
Those who didn’t realize the shops and restaurants are open for business could be forgiven. Despite signs posted around Island Plaza, at the corner of Collier Boulevard and Bald Eagle Drive, and in front of the stores, announcing they are “open during construction,” the area looks more like a construction site than a shopping center.
With a new façade being built over each section of the center in turn, the stores where work is being done have what appears to be a dense forest of scaffolding in front of them, with access through a tunnel roofed over with corrugated steel decking to protect those going in and out. Construction equipment, fencing and materials are much in evidence, and take up some of the spaces in the parking lot.
“It looks like it’s closed down,” said Vicki Howard, coming out of Subway with her husband Steve and daughter Rylee, 9. “We wouldn’t have stopped here, but we were meeting someone.”
“It’s a little confusing,” said Hattie Lamb, visiting from England, as she got back onto her bicycle and headed out.
Stephanie Sayre, going into Beall’s, said she wouldn’t have stopped by if she hadn’t been meeting friends across the street.
“I didn’t know anything was open here,” she said, but went in to do a little shopping. Will Heitz, though, browsing the racks at Jetset Surf Shop, said he encountered no problems.
“It’s the same as usual,” he said. Michele Senda stopped by Davide to pick up a menu and likewise had a smooth in and out. Some, though, such as the Howards, reported finding a parking space was difficult – the quintessential Marco Island complaint.
“All the merchants are open for business, yet it seems the island’s occupants don’t know that,” said Harbor Goldsmith owner Richard Alan. “It has seriously affected all of us here business-wise, and the summer months are a killer in itself.”
Making lemons into lemonade, Alan decorated the scaffolded entrance in front of his store with toy plastic hardhats. “I’m having a ‘brave the construction sale” to drum up business.” He understands the center doesn’t look ready for its closeup.
“If I saw all this madness going on, I might just go somewhere else myself,” he said.
Around the corner at Sweet Annie’s, ice cream shop owner Tim Hager was more upbeat.
“There’s been a slight falloff,” he said. “We’re a little different – we’re open in the evening. And even if we were totally blocked off, people are going to find their way here.”
Alan said he believes the center’s owner, Hendricks Commercial Properties, is doing all they can to help out the merchants.
“They’re doing a very good job, working as fast as they can. When else could they do it?”
Hendricks’ development manager Tony Trapasso echoed they are doing everything they can to ease the merchants’ plight, starting with when the work was scheduled.
“We began May first, and we’ll be substantially complete by the end of October,” he said. “We put up signs for each merchant when scaffold goes up in front of their store. We’re very sensitive to the tenants’ needs.
“This center needed to be updated. It hadn’t been remodeled since the ’80s.”
Ann Cemer, project manager for PBS Contractors, the general contractor for the project, had employees scouring the parking lot for nails and any debris as the workday finished on Tuesday afternoon.
“Hendricks is making sure everything is done right,” she said.
Despite torrential summer downpours and encountering some unforeseen problems, so often the case in remodels, “we’re going to hit our end date on time,” said PBS job superintendent Tommy Cox.
Upgrades being installed at Island Plaza include a covered loggia, a renovated façade, a 62-foot clock tower with satellite-based time, improved access and pedestrian crossing.