Business booms on Marco

Steve Stefanides

Nothing seems to have cooled a banner year for island business.

Four large-scale multi-million-dollar construction projects are underway on the island – a major upgrade on a busy bridge across Smokehouse Bay on Collier Boulevard; upgrades to the Marriott Hotel and separate additions to a Marriott timeshare, and a renovation of the Rose Marco River Marina.

The improvements come as Marco business leaders say the island is booming.

Smokehouse Bay Bridge

Late last fall, the city of Marco Island launched the long-debated replacement of the Smokehouse Bay Bridge. Drivers headed north on Collier Boulevard who forget to take an alternate route instead of Collier Boulevard can be sometimes delayed, and the frustration can be heard in the occasional playing of musical car horns.

The construction involves not only the replacement of the dual-span structure but replacement of water and wastewater lines. In addition, TECO gas lines, cable/phone lines and LCEC electric lines also have been rerouted.

Cost for the new structure is $8.25 million, inclusive of $650,000 in contingencies, but not including an extra $470,000 for brick pavers, lighting and landscaping.

All four lanes should be open to traffic in the early fall.

Crystal Shores Marriott Timeshare

The Crystal Shores Marriott Timeshare has begun construction on two additional guest buildings to house an additional 148 villas. There will be 116 two-bedroom units and 32 three-bedroom villas to complement the 128 units near the intersection of Winterberry Drive and South Collier Boulevard.

The project should be complete by late 2016 or early 2017.

Rose Marina renovation

Rose's Marco River Marina will shortly begin a $15 million renovation on Bald Eagle Drive. The project will entail the demolition of the old boat storage building and its replacement with a state-of-the-art facility for storage of larger craft.

In addition, the owners also will be building a new service facility to replace the present workspace. That facility will also house a boat owners' lounge and a large function room to accommodate educational presentations for boaters and fisherman alike as part of this renovation. The renovation will also include the complete renovation of the on-site stormwater control system, parking facilities, landscaping and pedestrian upgrades.

Marriott Golf & Beach Resort

One of the most anticipated projects on the island has been the $200 million renovation of the Marriott Beach and Golf Resort Hotel. This renovation will see the property become one of the leading properties within the Marriott inventory of high-end resorts around the world, and will carry the J.W. Marriott brand.

The project will involve the demolition of outdated meeting space at the south end of the property and its replacement with state-of-the-art meeting facilities, breakout rooms, new amenities and additional high-end guest suites. These amenities will include a rooftop bar, restaurant and pool for guests.

Plans include improved access and egress for deliveries and improvements to the stormwater system, in addition to retention and treatment facilities.

Work will begin in May, with a completion date in late December 2016.

Business owners pleased

Speak to almost any merchant on the island and she or he will tell you their numbers are up from that of previous years.

Jackie Koon, former president of the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce and owner of the popular CJ's on the Bay Restaurant at The Esplanade, is upbeat in her assessment of what they've seen so far this year.

"I can only speak for myself, but in conversations with others, they are all extremely pleased with what we've seen this year," said Koon.

Jim Prange of Premier Sotheby's International Realty is equally upbeat about the real estate market on Marco Island. Prange is a third-generation Realtor, having moved here from north central Indiana in 1980. He and his daughter, Nicki, two of the top producers in luxury real estate on Marco, are positive about sales in the first quarter of 2015.

"The sales in Hideaway and beachfront units are extremely positive, with back-up offers on many of the properties we presently have under contract," said Prange.

Alex Parker of AP Builders sees his home-renovation business as extremely busy, with more calls coming into him now for inquiries on new home construction.

"We are just finishing up a million-dollar-plus new home with inquiries regarding new builds every day. As a result of that increased interest we are looking at building a model home on Barfield Drive," said Parker.

Stan Niemczyk of the Golf to Gulf team at the Keller Williams Realty office, said that the sales of vacant lots are up approximately 72 percent over the number of lots sold in 2014 for January and February.

"Values on these lots are continuing to edge higher as a new generation of buyers are coming here to build their retirement home," said Niemczyk.