In the Know: Here are new chains, businesses coming to longtime empty spots in Naples
The folks feeling the most pained about the closing of Lucky's Markets seem to live in the East and South Naples areas.
That's my take after seeing the 4,000-plus reactions on our newspaper Facebook pages and through emails and other contacts the past 10 days or so.
Many had looked at the Lucky's on East Trail as their own and as a starting place for the arrival of other nearby shopping they would normally need to drive to the north side to find. And this time of year, that especially stinks.
"They were an appealing store for the community. They fit nicely and did a good job reaching out to be part of the neighborhood," Mark Strain, chairman of the Collier County planning commission, said of that Lucky's, which is expected to be eventually replaced by a Publix off-shoot called GreenWise. "Lucky’s was a good sign that things were finally turning around."
Yes, the options become fewer as you move south from Davis Boulevard. And I know you're tired of the storage closets no matter how pretty they make them. But I'm here to tell you: Higher grade amenities are evolving as we speak.
A few we can confirm. We'll start with a tiny sampling of the many great questions you've provided and go exploring a little.
Who is buying soon-to-be vacated Lucky's locations?:Lucky’s cuts deals for two more Southwest Florida stores
If you're perusing this column in traffic, please put the dang phone down. If you can figure it out, ask Alexa or Siri to recite it for you in an English accent because that will make me sound smarter. (And it helps having a little Miles Davis, Debussy, Christopher Cross, John Legend or Andrea Bocelli playing softly in the background to help with the happy thoughts.)
So here we go, dear readers.
Ann Miller: Enjoy your lively columns. Could you please do some long-needed investigation on the extremely long vacant Kmart at Freedom Square at Collier Boulevard and 41? Any businesses interested?
Bob Rice: Is there any future plans for the vacated Kmart building in Freedom Square?
Bob Angelow: Heard a rumor that two new stores are coming into the old Kmart building in Freedom Square in Naples. One is supposed to be Burlington. Any truth to this?
James Kestrol: Possible Burlington, HomeGoods coming to Freedom Square in East Naples in former Kmart.
Good job, guys.
Getting confirmation isn't always easy. There's help from the public records, with access to them increasingly disappearing throughout government in these final years of the decade.
So a quick service announcement. Write your legislator. Write your congressperson. Write your president. These records don't belong to them. They belong to you. Without transparency, there is no democracy.
Now about the slicing and dicing of that 117,162-square foot Kmart, which closed in October 2009 off U.S 41 and County Road 951, also known as Collier Boulevard. Records show plans for a 35,000-square foot Burlington, Collier's second, and a 30,000-square foot HomeGoods joining the ones in Naples and Bonita Springs.
The stores' point people aren't getting specific with dates or pretty much anything else.
"Unfortunately, we do not have any information to share at this time," said Burlington representative Casey Miller.
The center's refurbishing also includes a Planet Fitness, plus space for a willing restaurant and three other businesses, Strain said.
The honchos at Brixmor Property Group, which handles Freedom Square, say they're at the negotiation stage.
"We look forward to sharing new tenant names once leases are completed," said spokesperson Kristen Moore, who wanted to talk more late Friday about the $10 million improvements down the road at Brixmor's Marco Town Center.
But my esteemed colleague Omar Rodríguez Ortiz of the Marco Eagle has been all over that on the island since last year. Just search marconews.com.
Brixmor already has relationships with HomeGoods, which has been at its Park Shore Plaza on U.S. 41, south of Pine Ridge Road, since 1998, and Burlington. The latter moved inside part of an old Kmart there, closed only months earlier in 2015.
Freedom Square, which already has a Publix among its other offerings, is just a sampling of the buzz of activity in an area where man, machine and wildlife are intersecting on the edge of the Everglades. You know it. You see it.
"Starting far east along 41, Fiddler’s Creek just announced a new Publix at their eastern entrance on 41," Strain said. "Aldi is open at the southeast corner of 41 and 951."
So why don't we go bigger picture with my favorite question today from Jill Ducatman?She's swell and has good taste.
I enjoy reading your articles, and you are doing a great job. I’m moving from North Naples and its snarled Immokalee Road traffic, to South Naples, another growth area. Wondering what business development we have to look forward to there. Lots of big box stores and chain restaurants have opened, but I’m going to have to drive to a Target or Costco. With the huge Naples Reserve community and all the others lining Collier Boulevard, it seems like our retail infrastructure needs to grow, too.
The clues are there for the future.
While they're not places you would go to every day, or maybe ever if at all if you're on my budget, a luxury car row continues developing along Davis on the northern edge for East and South Naples.
The ability to pull in fancy pants dealerships like Porsche, BMW and Alfa Romeo further to the south helps illustrate the growing influence of those areas.
More from In the Know:Porsche, among spots new and old, making moves under leadership of immigrants
Beyond that, what you're seeing with the Kmart building and "all the retail developments springing up at the junction of Collier Boulevard and East Trail" are setting the stage for what is to come, said Karl M. Gibbons, president of Third Eye Management in Naples.
But it's not the most complicated conclusion he's ever had to make, concedes Gibbons, who has been advising industries in the U.S. and Europe for the better part of four decades.
"Population density is the simple answer to the question: Developers and retailers will go where the people are or are moving to," Gibbons said, citing how similarly to the north, Immokalee Road, took off to new heights the same way including the theme park atmosphere of the new Oakes Seed to Table market. "This has seen a huge increase in residential development, which in turn has grown retail developments."
Strain certainly has witnessed the growing number of roof tops that will "provide the incentive for more business in the east and south Naples area.
"For several years now, East Naples has led the county in most new platted lots and commercial startup projects," Strain said. "I do not see the unfortunate situation around Lucky’s departure a result of their location, and I would expect we will soon see opportunities for other good businesses."
Regardless of its sad demise for residents after becoming the second one to open in Florida in 2016, Lucky's did spur "some new life" for the Naples Towne Center area, south of the county's government complex at Davis and U.S. 41, Strain said.
"That center has been difficult for many years," he said, but Lucky's played a role in "not only upgrading that center, but also attracting larger new businesses to East Naples."
Quite a few of you have asked a lot of other questions about the region the past few months, and I hope to provide answers to as many of them as I can in future columns.
Based at the Naples Daily News, Columnist Phil Fernandez (email@example.com) writes In the Know as part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. Please support the First Amendment freedoms we've all been entrusted to defend and subscribe to a newspaper.