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Judging by the lines of traffic headed north on I-75, many of our seasonal residents have headed home.

While hotels in Naples, Marco Island and Everglades City remain busy and are gearing up for the summer family vacation season, the drop in population means area businesses have time to take a breath and refresh their facilities.

Meanwhile several new ones are ramping up after popular soft openings.

New at Waterside Shops

I walked through the beautiful Waterside Shops this week and discovered several new stores and learned of plans for a new restaurant.

The True Food Kitchen, serving honest food that tastes really good, will be built this summer and open by early fall.

Vineyard Vines, a New England-based chain offering preppy styles for the whole family, has a notable design element. The checkout counter is fashioned as a custom sportfishing yacht and built by Jarrett Bay Boatworks. The company is a sponsor of the Kentucky Derby. Items in their 2016 Derby Collection include the Lillies Tie and Bowtie and the Derby Rose Fascinator. Thirty percent of the proceeds from these items will be donated to Bright Pink, a national nonprofit focused on early detection and prevention of breast and ovarian cancer in young women.

Also new at Waterside, Free People features fashionable bohemian clothing and accessories for women.

Restaurant news

Celebrity chef Art Smith hosted a VIP reception at his new 1500 South restaurant at Naples Bay Resort recently. His culinary marriage of American southern and Italian cuisine is off to a grand start with a growing list of solid reviews and even a proclamation by newly installed Naples Mayor Bill Barnett praising Smith’s focus on healthier cuisine.

Park Shore Resort is the new home of Pate’s Island Club. The tropical oasis-like location was closed while renovation work was done to remedy the damage caused by roots of ficus trees that grew into the drainage system. It’s open for dinner with lunch service coming over the summer.

Transformation to JW Marriott

The biggest refresh of them all in Florida’s Paradise Coast is nothing short of an amazing transformation.

Work on the much-loved Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club, & Spa ramps up this summer and fall, as the resort becomes the new JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort.

Opening under the new identity happens on Jan. 1, 2017. Work will intensify on the new tower at the resort, but guests can already enjoy new dining options including MAIA, ARIO and the new Kane beachfront grill and tiki bar.

JoNell Modys is the public relations and communications manager for the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau, the tourism marketing organization for Collier County, where more than 1.8 million visitors annually provide an economic impact of almost $2 billion. Check the destination website, paradisecoast.com, for more ideas on what to see and do in Florida’s Paradise Coast.

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