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In the Know: Your questions about Aldi, Great Wolf and more construction at Collier and Davis boulevards

Phil Fernandez
Naples Daily News

Time to play a tiny bit of catch up on your many, many inquiries spilling out of the overflowing mailbag, online correspondence box, telephone message storage and social media channels.

Elaine Burik had a question Monday that's on the minds of several dozen of you including Jenn Loyola of Bonita Springs, Jordan Paul of Estero, Katerina Eniko Axinte and Donna Bordelon Ferrao, both of Fort Myers, and reader Micaela Pesce.

She put it simply: "When is Aldi in Estero due to open?"

The Aldi in Estero is close to completion while the work for the one in Bonita Springs is just beginning.

As all Tamiami Trail motorists glancing over already know, the exterior's looked ready for months, adjacent to that prodigious parking lot of Walmart Supercenter. And the Aldi brand signs just finally went up.

Always helpful reader John Jaffee, hereby dubbed Sir Double J, directed me to a website specializing on grocery store news that even had it unlocking its doors this past week, raising the prospect that Aldi was getting close. But nope, J-Dog. Didn't happen.

"I stopped by Aldi today, and they are not open yet," Jaffee said Saturday. "The work on the right-of-way and surface water management is underway."

The Naples-based Bradanna contractors involved with the enterprise are saying Dec. 17 is the day. A regular on a lot of major construction in the region with the kind of monster machinery that would make Home Improvement's "Tool Time" Tim Taylor grunt and drool, they're currently putting in the right turn lane there.

But perhaps due to the project's twist and turns in this process from planning and design to now that has dragged for more than four years, an Aldi VP told me this past week that he's not ready to commit to the date — or any other for that matter.

More of In the know:

Aldi has 72 stores on its digital list of upcoming grand openings across the country. Estero wasn't on it as of Sunday.

"We do not have any new information to share," said Chris Hewitt of Aldi's Royal Palm Beach division.

The grocer is still taking applications for supervisory and front-line jobs and has been working on getting the drainage figured out, as I've previously reported.

It's been a bit of a rough road for most of the journey, with some nearby residents not overly enthused when initially proposed just outside their gates, among other complaints, including resolving the issue of a billboard on the land.

For the many of you who are antsy, look at it this way: It probably won't reach the five-year mark on delays like the Oakes Farms Seed to Table Market on Immokalee Road in Naples that missed deadline after deadline for that long or more before it finally made it to the finish line.

If it does launch Dec. 17, it would come exactly a year after that Oakes debut. Yeah, it's been a year, and what a year it's been, sisters and brothers.

Previously:Aldi grocers, Great Wolf Lodge and Founders Square's growing lineup

Howling for the Great Wolf

Reader Bill Rose was a bit uneasy as he sought an update on the Great Wolf Lodge and its consideration by the Collier County Commission.

"Is Great Wolf Lodge coming to Southwest Florida?" asked Rose, who also wondered what water slides might be included, upon which I may be able to shed just a teeny bit of light later. "I am just worried about it not coming. I want Great Wolf Lodge."

He's not alone.

"I hope they approve the Great Wolf Lodge ASAP," reader Christopher Martin said. "The one in Georgia is great, but the nine-hour drive isn't."

The aquatic family adventure outside Atlanta may be the nearest for awhile, based on the commission's one-year feasibility study agreement with Chicago-based Hunden Strategic Partners for $40,000.

In the Know:Latest on downtown demolition and Old Naples Hotel

More:What's coming to life at Davis and Collier boulevards?

The Great Wolf Lodge in LaGrange, Ga., outside Atlanta.

A review of public records by In the Know seems to suggest that's chump change compared to what it might take to have the hotel and attraction locate adjacent to the Paradise Coast Sports Complex off Collier Boulevard and I-75.

A Great Wolf memo marked as confidential says the company doesn't believe it can cover the construction expense through the typical revenues it would make. It's interested in incentives and possible state assistance.

Its costs for past resorts, now totaling 19 in North America, have been about $150 million or so, for the most part. Documents show higher price tags for the Collier version, up to about $250 million.

So why so much? Here's where Rose's question on what he might expect to see on the 20 acres comes into play.

The Great Wolf memo makes this point: "Highly competitive family market requires greater investment in waterpark attractions."

So while there are no specifics yet, that suggests that this Great Wolf could be an even Greater Great Wolf. The plans call for a 550-room hotel, an outdoor pool and its signature massive inside waterslide park. I know a few of you have questioned the indoors aspect for a Sunshine State location.

Also included, besides 950 parking spots, is something that hasn't been previously detailed: A 15,000- to 20,000-square-foot conference center.

In the Know:Plans for an Elon Musk-inspired 700 mph Hyperloop bullet train

And:Naples keeps stretching south on U.S. 41 toward Everglades City

More:Construction begins next month as yet another car dealer sets up shop

Employing about 375 people, Great Wolf would generate about $1.2 million a year in property tax, up to $5 million a year in sales tax and as much as $3 million a year in room tax, according to a county staff report.

The nearest that Martin referenced represents Georgia's second most visited resort, casino or hotel, based on a Hunden preliminary study. Sea Island Resort is first annually.

Great Wolf has been scouting South Florida for awhile, and at one point last year, the Pompano Beach area had been under consideration, according to the Sun-Sentinel. 

Based on Collier's feasibility agreement, Hunden's mission, which it chose to accept is: "What size of incentive package would be in the county's best interest to provide?"

Moving closer to the edge

The time is certainly here for a busy intersection that sat relatively quiet in the construction world for just about a decade.

East Naples reader Vinny DeFeo asked about one of the latest projects near where he lives at Collier and Davis boulevards:

"Phil, Would you please let us know about the apartment-looking complex in process behind the Collier/Davis intersection? It's behind La Quinta, McDonald's and Taco Bell," DeFeo said. "Do you have any information on this?"

The Edge75 by Watermark apartments are slated to open next year. The property is roughly bordered by I-75 and Collier and Davis boulevards.

Early on, the name slated had been the Alligator Alley Apartments. It appears it didn't have the ritzy appeal that said, "Live here." And heck, Gainesville, home of the University of Florida, appropriately already has a complex with that moniker.

So how's this? 

Edge75 by Watermark.

Gotta love the honesty of how the 34 acres are directly adjacent to I-75, the edge of the interstate and the Everglades, too. The plans do show nine acres of preserve serving as a bit of a buffer.

In the Know: Construction has picked up in the I-75 and Collier/Davis Boulevard area including the Edge75 by Watermark apartments. Work on those homes should be complete by next year.

Indianapolis-based Thompson Thrift Development, located on magnificent Monument Circle, had a 2018 purchase contract as part of land deal with folks related to Sarasota's Benderson Development, according to state records.

The latter you might remember left us with the abandoned Iron Skeleton for 11 years or so across the street. As we've previously reported on that particular piece, Amazon is setting up shop there for distribution.

Based on paperwork shuffling at the county office, the dealings for the residential property cost Thompson and its affiliates close to $9 million.

A distribution center for Amazon is slated for the old Iron Skeleton property at Collier and Davis boulevards.

The 320 planned apartments are clustered in a half-dozen four-story wooden structures, and the owners have been targeting occupancy by the second quarter of next year, according to county data. About 10 percent of them will be three bedrooms, with the rest split between one and two sleeping chambers.

While exact rent hasn't been determined, the expected amenities are plentiful: Garages, fitness center, yoga room, pool, human and pet spas, grills, outdoor fireplace, outdoor TV lounge, clubhouse television lounge with coffee bar, weight room, dog park and a 1.7-acre pond with fountains that may muffle the traffic noise a little, hopefully.

And yes, something that is often missing in too many local multi-floored apartment buildings: An elevator.

But maybe with coronavirus out there, take the stairs just the same.

Based at the Naples Daily News, Columnist Phil Fernandez (pfernandez@gannett.com) writes In the Know as part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. Support Democracy and subscribe to a newspaper.

A distribution center for Amazon is slated for the old Iron Skeleton property at Collier and Davis boulevards.
The Edge75 by Watermark apartments are slated to open next year. The property is roughly bordered by I-75 and Collier and Davis boulevards.