In the Know: A look inside Inn on Fifth's $5M renovation; new developments and the hazards of Davis Blvd.

On average, hotel operators will update their places every seven years or so, according to Interserv, a leading renovator of lodges nationally.

Obviously, the Inn on Fifth's Phil McCabe didn't get the memo.

He renovates just about every year, spending about $1 million, often more.

But not in 2019. Nope.

Instead, he's pouring $5 million into an ongoing makeover, one of his biggest yet at 699 Fifth Ave. S. that includes the 3,600-square-foot pool deck just upgraded in 2016.

"I would characterize it as massive," McCabe said.

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Owner Phil McCabe walks through a third-floor hallway where renovations are underway at The Inn on Fifth in Naples on Tuesday, August 27, 2019.

But is it necessary? For one who has stayed at numerous hotels in the region and around the country, it would seem not. The place and the pool look inviting as it is.

Don't tell him that.

Yes, "it's a beautiful building," he said. But it's all about repeat customers who "see the investments."

"You have to justify the expenditure," he said. "I can justify the $5 million."

So if you wonder why you might be paying a little more for your hotel room after the four-month project is completed by early October, this is the reason. The most expensive will cost thousands in the winter.

But if you're staying at McCabe's place, you don't care about price. You care about quality. Comfort. You want to escape.

More:Fifth Avenue South evolving with new projects, mix of tenants

That explains the 40% of his customers who come back year after year. Indeed, he had 82% occupancy in 2018, a year of horrid red tide and other ecological setbacks that marred the environment, and Southwest Florida tourism with it.

"Phil has continually reinvested and upgraded the hotel, providing a tremendous product for our community and visitors," said Bruce Barone Jr., executive director of the Fifth Avenue South Business Improvement District. "The hotel’s luxury reputation brings tourists and visitors from all over the world throughout the year."

McCabe, a founding member of the district and former chairman of the property owners association, knows his business as well as anyone.

Various studies show that repeat customers spend more money and more often. These guests are more likely to upgrade and purchase the most expensive products or services, according to

Rates on the rise:Jobless rates in Southwest Florida tick up in August, but remain low

A renovated room features tiled floor, which replaced the old carpet, at The Inn on Fifth in Naples on Tuesday, August 27, 2019.

It all comes down to the development of trust, and repeat guests feeling confident with the standard of the hotel that involve costs more likely to be covered by these regulars.

For two decades or so, McCabe's helped lead the way for Fifth Avenue South, going from operating a popular Irish pub to running the high-end 119-room Inn on Fifth, among millions of dollars in other investments.

One of those investments was the nearly $20 million into the completion of a new mixed-use building at the intersection with Fifth Street South. The condos there have sold out, and businesses are filling in the lower level.

Still, the Inn, largely unlike the standalone beachfront hotels, is the catalyst for the adjacent businesses of Fifth Avenue South. It sets the bar. It sets the pace. McCabe understands all eyes are on him.

"Our hotel was the driver of the economy," McCabe said, in helping transform Fifth. "I'm pushing the demographic."

McCabe's leadership has been key, Barone said.

"He has played a major role both behind-the-scenes and publicly in transforming Fifth Avenue South to a luxury destination known worldwide,” Barone said.

"The Inn on Fifth anchors Fifth Avenue South and positively impacts every business along the Avenue.”

An old sliding door looks out onto the pool area from a room at The Inn on Fifth in Naples on Tuesday, August 27, 2019. After Labor Day weekend, the hotel will replace all the doors and windows throughout the building.

McCabe's challenge is that he competes with gulf front resorts, which are arguably blessed with Southwest Florida's greatest natural amenity. That's another reason for his investments even if the beach is 650 yards or so from his front door.

Meanwhile, the competition keeps growing. Nine new hotels are in the works in Southwest Florida, according to LSI Companies.

These establishments have big name and big money backing. Business Travel News found that in the first half of 2019, 70% of the 450 hotels that opened in the U.S. belonged to Marriott, Hilton or IHG.

You can find that big money illustrated right here in Collier County.

The recently completed $320 million renovation of JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort is likely the second most in lodging history, according to Architectural Digest.

It trails the $350 million plucked down for spiffing up the 130-year-old Savoy in London almost a decade ago.


U.S. hotel capital expenditures 

2018: $7.05 billion

2017: $6.85 billion

2016: $6.6 billion

2015: $6.35 billion

2014: $6 billion

2013: $5.6 billion

2012: $5.1 billion

2011: $3.75 billion

2010: $2.7 billion

2009: $3.3 billion

2008: $5.5 billion

2007: $5.3 billion

2006: $5 billion

2005: $4.8 billion

Source: New York University School of Professional Studies; Business Travel News.

Road hazard

►As initially reported this past week, many of you have questions about "The Street Project That Will Not End" on Davis Boulevard, near U.S. 41.

Aargh:The driving disaster known as Davis Boulevard

There are concerns about safety. Concerns about an unnecessary traffic jam. And concerns about the economic impact: That's where I come in as a growth and development columnist.

The frustration is clear.

Here's one example from Debbie Reed of Naples.

"Any idea how long the lane on Davis Blvd between Shadowlawn and 41 will remain closed? This is the third month. Just a small section is torn up, left open; in the meantime we’re down a lane. Aargh."

This patch of Davis Boulevard, complete with weeds, has been leading to lane closures since June and backups during heavy traffic periods. It won't be fixed until November. This was taken after the morning rush on Thursday Sept. 19, 2019.

Then there's Raymond Bowie of Naples, who noted that weeds are growing in the road itself because no one's seemingly been doing anything. (I had to check this out for myself).

"Davis Blvd is a major arterial linking the City of Naples to East Naples. For a number of months now, there has been a small pavement excavation in the right lane westbound on Davis Blvd at a busy section just before Davis merges into Route 41, in which the entire right lane has been closed to traffic for about a quarter-mile in front of several shopping centers and a supermarket," Bowie said. "With season just around the corner, this threatens to strangle traffic into downtown, and worse, risk some real serious accidents. I understand that the state is responsible for maintenance here. What gives?"

The news isn't good, folks.

And by the way, don't blame my new pals at the Florida Department of Transportation. Believe it or not, they have nothing to do with this mess. I was as surprised as you.

"The department issued a permit to allow Crown Castle, a private utility company to conduct utility work in the state right of way back in June 2019," said JoAnn May, communications specialist for FDOT. "Crown Castle's contractor damaged the underground pipe while conducting work on their project."

Oh-oh. It gets worse.

"This required an emergency repair to prevent further damage to the road. The contractor is currently awaiting the stainless steel sleeve which should arrive within six weeks," May said. "Once the sleeve arrives and is installed, the road will need to be paved approximately 50 feet in both directions and will take about another week to complete. Once the road is repaved; the lane closure will be lifted and reopened to the public in early November."

She's asking you to hang in there.

"The department certainly understands the frustration having this closure in place and ask motorists to drive with caution, courtesy and patience as they travel through this area," she said.

I haven't heard back from Crown Castle, a big dog in the communications network industry. As part of information with its second quarter 2019 earnings report, it owns, operates and leases more than 40,000 cell towers and about 70,000 route miles of fiber across every major US market.

A previously provided map of Crown Castle's cell phone tower installations. It has more than 40,000 of them as one of the biggest companies in the communications network industry. The company has played an unexpected role in the traffic issue on Davis Boulevard. (Provided)

So I bet you have some of the same questions. Here's a few. May fielded them this past week including a new one we asked her near the end of the day Friday that came from a reader, who saw my web update on this story and had a suggestion.

Q: First, why have the road closed while waiting for this piece of steel?

A: "The lane closures are necessary to maintain safe conditions for motorists due to the instability of the road. This instability is due to the damaged pipe underneath."

Q: Reader Chad Haidet asked, Why can they not use a large piece of steel to cover the area which reinforces it, allowing cars to drive over the area and opens up the lane?  They use them all the time up North.

A: "The idea is to keep traffic off the area altogether to prevent any further damage to the roadway. With the damage to the pipe, allowing traffic to drive over the area, even on a steel plate, could cause the void underneath the asphalt to become larger. In order to prevent further damage to the roadway and to ensure the safety of the public; the lane closure is necessary."

Q: Who's paying for this?

A: "The contractor is required by the department to pay the cost of the repairs to the pipe and any damage to the roadway."

Q: Why is there such a long wait for this piece of steel, and how big is it? Can't someone just pop over to Home Depot or Lowe's?

A: "It’s a 48-inch steel sleeve pipe that is being custom made and fabricated, and shipped from Germany."

Doesn't anyone use leftover plywood and duct tape anymore?

Go south, young man

►Jimmy John's invasion of Southwest Florida continues, moving to its southernmost point yet on the Gulf of Mexico.

As reported this past week, the sandwich shop at 2500 Tamiami Trail N. unlocked its doors Tuesday, less than a block from nicely named Diana Avenue.

“This will be our third store in Naples, and our team is excited," said owner Bobby Malek.

In the Know:Jimmy John's keeps moving south

Jimmy John's logo

Malek said he plans to hire about 20 employees. Anyone interested can apply at the store, open daily from 11 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and fill out an application. 

The two other Collier locations are 1201 Piper Blvd., off Immokalee Road, and 6434 Naples Blvd., near the Airport Pulling and Pine Ridge roads intersection.

Founded in 1983 in Illinois, Jimmy John's shtick right now is "to serve Freaky Fast! Freaky Fresh! sandwiches."

Malek is touting new sandwiches that, for all I know, could be characters in the old HBO series, "The Sopranos": "Jimmy Cubano, Spicy East Coast Italian and The Frenchie.”

The restaurant, with now more than 2,800 locations in 43 states, has limited delivery by calling (239) 268-4250, or ordering online at 

Going up

►Toll Brothers has announced plans to build Hamilton Place, a new town home community in Naples, which is set to open in early 2020.

Located just south of Pine Ridge Road off Livingston Road, the gated neighborhood will feature 66 homes, with floor plans ranging from 1,600 to 2,000 square feet. The community will also include a private residents’ cabana and swimming pool.

Toll Brothers construction continues in Collier County.

“Hamilton Place’s stylish town homes will be perfect for those who desire a low-maintenance lifestyle in a sought-after Naples location,” said Kevin Brown, senior vice president of Toll Brothers’ West Florida division. “We look forward to welcoming home buyers early next year.”

Southwest Florida communities for Toll Brothers, which was founded in 1967, also include Palazzo at Naples and Azure at Hacienda Lakes in Naples. Abaco Pointe, a new attached villa community in Naples, is expected to open in early 2020. Call 844-871-7466 or visit

►Construction has started on Creative World School at 2260 Olympia Park Blvd. in North Naples.

Owned by Amy and Chris O’Malley, the 10,456-square-foot building will accommodate up to 198 students, featuring a preschool for ages 6 weeks through 5 years and before- and after-school programs for students ages 5 to 12 years. It will include age level appropriate classrooms, kitchen, offices and multiple outdoor play areas. 

The project by Owen-Ames-Kimball (O-A-K) Florida Inc. is slated for completion in March 2020. O-A-K also constructed Creative World School in the Gateway community in Fort Myers.

Phil Fernandez writes the In the Know column, focusing on growth and development. Send ideas or questions to

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