Margaritaville builders buy land of oldest FMB hotel; deals in Times Square, Bonita Beach

Phil Fernandez
Naples Daily News

We first told you last month that Margaritaville's developers had their eye on more nearby investments in the Hurricane Ian aftermath, and it has begun.

Minnesota-based TPI Hospitality, through its TPI-FMB Suites LLC, has picked up the remains of what's been known as the oldest hotel on Fort Myers Beach for $7.1 million.

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In an agreement spotted Friday by real estate data whiz Paige Rausch, the terms for the Silver Sands Villas called for doling out $200,000 this past week and interest payments of about $23,000 a month until the Nov. 1, 2024 closing date that will come with a $6.9 million payout.

Located about 225 feet south of the border of the Margaritaville project due for completion late this year, the now-mangled hodgepodge of two dozen hotel rooms and cottages last sold for $1.1 million in 2001 and has been in existence since entrepreneur Tom Phillips developed the property in 1921.

We're waiting to hear back from TPI Co-CEO Tom Torgerson on the land that's two blocks from devastated Times Square, where there's other doings.

The 1,181 square feet of turf where the vintage Pete's Time Out stood has been sold for $1.1 million. Its 951-square foot building had been on the tax rolls since 1956 and first purchased by Lallo family members four decades ago, taking over the former Ronnie's on the Beach.

"It's truly our most responsible business decision we have made in our careers," John Lallo said of the New Years holiday weekend sale, with the cost to rebuild too high for the family to continue.

Lallo and his wife, Debbie, have also been overcoming Ian's hammering of their riverfront home, 30 miles away from where they popularized their "Brew, Chew and View" mantra that their many fans shared they'll miss.

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"The selfish part of me is very sad," said Paula Bingeman, a regular customer. "Pete's Time Out was our go-to place on Fort Myers Beach for decades. We've met so many wonderful people over the years that really feel like family. Memories and friendships that will last a lifetime."

And that's what John Lallo said he and his wife will cherish.

"We have only sold the dirt that we built the Pete's Time Out legacy on, and no one can take that from us," Lallo said. "We wish the best for the new owners of the property. I cannot speak on their intentions because I truly do not know. The situation of rebuilding is truly complicated and demands a huge bankroll and patience. Only time will tell."

Clean up from Hurricane Ian continues around the Times Square area of Fort Myers Beach on Thursday, Jan 5, 2023.

While we haven't heard from those who may be tied to the deal, the LLC making the purchase has a similar address to HM Restaurant Group, known for its Doc Ford's chain. But co-owner Mark Marinello told me Thursday night his organization is not involved. He did, however, have an update on two of his locations pummeled by the Sept. 28 hurricane.

"The Doc Ford's property rebuilding is moving forward," Marinello said. "We look forward to reopening Sanibel mid- February and Fort Myers Beach hopefully in March."

With the price of Pete's, Rausch said she's watching closely who might purchase the less than one acre that held the century-old Shucker’s at the Gulfshore and The Cottage Bar restaurants across from Palermo Circle selling for $16 million. It would likely take a heavy hitter.

"If it was a food establishment, to make that work it would need to generate $20 million in sales," Rausch said.

The Cottage and Shuckers Bar on Fort Myers Beach on Thursday, Jan 5, 2023.  Hurricane Ian wiped the building and bar off the map. The property is for sale.

Figuring out the future of Times Square on Fort Myers Beach

And a lot of local heavy hitters are going to be involved in figuring out the future of the Times Square area. A subject of a little bit of Town Council discussion, the revival will be a longer term process.

"I don't know if we really know what Times Square is going to look like being redeveloped," said council member Bill Veach, who was the first on the current board to push for a charrette involving property owners, business and staff members. The goal: "Figure out what they can do and maybe start moving forward on what the future of Times Square is going to look like because I know it's tricky. (That) will take awhile."

For example, while new homes are elevated with living spaces due to flood rules, some still have amenities at ground level, such as garages, driveways and makeshift patios or portable seating areas. So how far can businesses push it as leaders figure out how it all comes together for its historic town center.

"That's probably what the biggest question is," Scott Safford, a town planning board member who owns or manages about 125 beach properties, said recently. "We don't know what Times Square is going to look like. We're kicking around the idea of having the town build that sea wall that Margaritaville wanted to build in the first place. There's a lot of things that are going to happen with the town that will be interesting to keep an eye on."

That seawall is in play, Margaritaville's Torgerson said prior to the new TPI hotel purchase.

Clean up from Hurricane Ian continues around the Times Square area of Fort Myers Beach on Thursday, Jan 5, 2023.  Some of the restaurants and bars have been sold. It is unclear what the area will look like.

"We were engaged with coastal engineers back in 2015 during our very early designs of the project," Torgerson told me. "Back then it was called Grand Resorts. We designed what we called a Coastal Protection System (CPS) that included an underground armoring wall (or seawall) with a boardwalk on top of it. This was proposed to run the landward side of the beach, north past Times Square and south past our property down to Shucker’s.

"The CPS, and along with the scale of Grand Resorts, was not viewed favorably by the Fort Myers Beach community and was therefore abandoned. In retrospect, the CPS could have saved most of the downtown area of Fort Myers Beach, not from the flooding, but from the structural devastation the waves of Ian caused. The town has said the CPS is an option they will consider in their build planning."

In addition, Times Square is adjacent to government territory managed by Lee County and the town, and that likely will play a role in the overall redevelopment.

"That area of the beach down there, our portion of the land, their (county) portion of the land, the pier, all that is an integral part of Fort Myers Beach," Mayor Dan Allers said. "Where does that lead us? Where do we want to go? Working with staff, what's going to be the best things for zoning? What makes sense? What doesn't make sense? What does the community want? It's going to take a little bit of time."

In the Know: Fort Myers Beach damage after Hurricane Ian's devastation. Times Square was in the center. Holiday Court villas had been at the top left of the image, north of the two yellow and green buildings. Clipped and edited from USA TODAY Network video footage.

Other deals in the making: Outrigger Beach Resort, Big Hickory Grille

And there's another piece residents are raising that islander Dave Bergeron calls "the elephant in the room." Can the traffic flow be improved around Times Square?

"Times Square is leveled and has to be rebuilt," Bergeron said. "Now is the time to do what is necessary to solve the congestion problem created by northbound cars turning left into Times Square. (It) is this one intersection that backs up traffic for miles in both directions."

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The changes will continue to come on and just off the shores of Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Beach.

Naples-based Colorado Southern Inc. has a contract to sell the Outrigger Beach Resort, but isn't providing details.

Vice-Mayor Jim Atterholt was aware of a brewing deal on that part of the island, but he wouldn't say whether it was the Outrigger, which, according to Lee County records, last sold in 1968 for $219,000.

"I talked to a hotel owner on the south end," Atterholt said. "I won't mention the hotel, but there's not a lot on the south end so you can use your imagination. He said, 'Jim, I'm not selling to the highest bidder. I'm selling to a hotel chain that will represent what we represented and even more be the best fit for our island that will be a classy, fun, eclectic fit for our island, not just some cookie cutter design. I want what's best for the island."

The sale of the Outrigger on Fort Myers Beach is under contract according to a sign in front of the property. The popular hotel was heavily affected by Hurricane Ian.

Near the Outrigger, we've previously reported the sale of the Carousel Inn, which will be replaced by condos.

Others not coming back include the Big Hickory Waterfront Grille & Marina, which is being sold to the Bonita fire department in a deal scheduled to close this week.

Based at the Naples Daily News, Columnist Phil Fernandez (, who grew up in Southwest Florida, writes In the Know as part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. Support Democracy and subscribe to a newspaper.