What thousands of you told me about FMB Margaritaville expansion; and new housing rules

Phil Fernandez
Naples Daily News

Today: Updates on Margaritaville, Big Hickory Waterfront Grille, temporary public housing and Clive Daniel Home.

With its rapid expansion in the COVID age, it was only a matter of time before Clive Daniel Home and its furniture and design gig would have a setup in Lee County.

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Birthed in Naples more than a decade ago, it expanded to Boca Raton in 2016 and Sarasota last year. At the same time it was growing partnerships with developers in the recent housing boom to outfit new Southwest Florida pads.

Now in the wake of Hurricane Ian's pummeling, in particular Lee, and the huge demand during the recovery that's helping drive the local economy, the company is parking in the ex-Winn Dixie, among other brands, at Gladiolus Crossing, which sits at Gladiolus Drive and Winkler Road in Fort Myers.

“We have a significant number of clients in Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, and the islands, so opening a nearby showroom will make it that much easier for them to work with our products and designers,” said Daniel Lubner, CEO of Clive Daniel. “Following the hurricane, we feel a fidelity to support all that needs to happen over the next few years to restore our community.” 

The 46,872 square feet should debut in September, Lubner said Wednesday, fresh from signing the lease with the help of LandQwest Commercial Real Estate Services.

“Some might call it a homecoming, but really it’s been home all along,” said Lubner, a Fort Myers High graduate who lives in Lee County and told me after the horrific storm about the road ahead for his industry and others locally as residents rebuild.

"The need will be extraordinary. We have gone through several weather events and understand the staggered recovery timing that the community will go through," he told me. "The calls to assist with our past residential and commercial clients have been plentiful. Luckily, we have a team of over 75 designers and are able to provide help at scale. We are committed to helping my home town, and still current town."

Daniel Lubner, CEO, poses for a portrait at Clive Daniel Home in Naples on Wednesday, January 27, 2021.

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Considering that creativity is their jam, look for the luxury showroom to integrate some of the existing elements of the former grocery, such as incorporating a chef's table for special events, Lubner said.

So far, no sign in the exterior rendering he shared with me of that Winn Dixie color palette many of us grew up with in the Sunshine State or those headband-clad Winn Win Twinns from the TV commercials.

The week had already started strong for Clive Daniel, with its hiring by Stock Custom Homes to pretty up new abodes in Estero's WildBlue neighborhood as part of an agreement that also includes R.G. Designs.

January 2023 Fort Myers Beach Margaritaville rendering in the forefront showing newly acquired expansion property in the red square.

Deals in the vicinity of Margaritaville; debut of expansion set for 2025

We heard back from the builder of the rising Fort Myers Beach Margaritaville after we first reported that the developer had purchased land where the island's oldest hotel had stood until Hurricane Ian.

Minnesota-based TPI Hospitality, through its TPI-FMB Suites LLC, picked up the remains of the Silver Sands Villas for $7.1 million. It was not a big surprise, considering I had told you in December that TPI Co-CEO Tom Torgerson had his eye on nearby investments in the Ian aftermath.

Company leadership didn't respond to a request for comment in time for last week's column, but after we broke the story, TPI issued a statement, saying it planned "an extension of the Margaritaville Resort comprised of balcony suites with parking underneath and some retail along Estero Boulevard. The project is currently in the design stage with application mid-year to the town, followed by construction next year."

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

And:Inside look at Naples Bay Club renovation. Bad news for Winn-Dixie lovers.

That wasn't the only major deal in the vicinity of the complex at almost the same time.

Across the street from about where the lobby is slated, the house of Torgerson's daughter went pending only four days after being listed Jan. 5 for $4.3 million, one of the bigger pending deals of the year already in Lee County, according to data by real estate specialist Paige Rausch. Before the 2020 construction of the digs, land records show the property itself sold for $800,000 in 2018.

TPI, which has scheduled a topping off ceremony for Friday, expects its currently emerging $200 million edifice of 254 units and crooner Jimmy Buffett-themed entertainment to be completed by the end of this year, with the expansion debuting in mid-2025.

More:Will Margaritaville, Lani Kai on Fort Myers Beach push on in Hurricane Ian aftermath?

And:Hurricane Ian aftermath: Temporary public housing slow to come to Fort Myers Beach, SWFL

Margaritaville expansion: Saving Fort Myers Beach or ending its 'charm'?

With more than 3,000 comments, reactions and shares on my Margaritaville column via the News-Press and Daily News Facebook pages and email, readers had plenty to say:

▸Bonita Springs resident Nancy Leary was too nice in saying that "I always enjoy your columns" but pained enough by what she was seeing on Fort Myers Beach that she won't listen to Buffett ditties anymore.

"They are gulping up the, to many of us, sacred areas on the beach." Leary told me. "I was a long-time devoted fan of Buffett, attended many concerts, had his station in my SiriusXM presets. I am now completely turned off by anything associated with him."

▸"Fort Myers Beach is going to become the playground of spring breakers and rich people," Fort Myers resident Nicholas Yunker said. "Gone are the days of family vacations and small town beach feel."

▸"We already have stuffy resort islands," Naples sailing captain Dan Spence said. "Fort Myers Beach was our last real spot where locals mingled with tourists, fishermen and sailors, rich and poor alike. The last thing we need is another island full of concrete eyesore and businesses that cater to nothing but the ultra wealthy. (I) will miss the people that lived in those trailers. They served drinks in the bars, hung out on the docks worked on boats. (Rest) in peace, Fort Myers Beach. We will miss your quirkiness, your charm and your laid back fishing town vibes more than you know."

▸"Margaritaville will change this island forever," said mortgage loan officer Natalie Smith. "I said it before Ian. Ian just helped it along. The progress is stifling. This beautiful island will never be the same ever, in my lifetime. Broken hearted for so many lives forever changed."

▸"Grateful I was able to raise my three boys on Fort Myers Beach the way it was," resident Rebecca Scoville said. "With my youngest going to college soon, this will make it hard for me to find a reason to stay. The charm and small town feel (is) slipping away quickly. Might be a good time to leave and make room for someone else."

▸"I agree there has to be hurricane codes so this devastation does not happen again. but hope it stays simple and affordable," Cape Coral resident Sandy Yohe Guffey said. "It would be nice if they kept the buildings across the street and leave the beach alone. Praying for a simple beach again, and all who lost can rebuild."

▸"Someone with deep pockets needed to step in and rebuild," Cape Coral resident Joe Morone said. "Local charm is no longer an opinion. It went away with Ian."

▸"I worked on the beach," Cape Coral marketing specialist Michael Dest said. "Obviously, the devastation is tragic, but I also think it’s a good opportunity to revitalize the area. (The) beach was in desperate need of an update. Part of the reason the damage was so extensive was because so many of those businesses hadn’t been updated in decades."

▸"Maybe they will build something nicer than those old shacks," Naples resident Boris Badenof said.

▸"If you have been to Margaritaville before, it matches the vibe of Fort Myers Beach," Fort Myers resident Gage Leal said. "I can't wait for this to be built so close. Staycations all the time."

▸"This is not a bad thing," Lee County music teacher Stephen Johnson said. "Someone needs to rebuild the island. And the Margaritaville owner has already agreed to build public parking garages. We need those desperately. Parking used to be a wild goose chase down there. Out with the old; in with a hopefully more functional new Fort Myers Beach."

▸"Sometimes the truth and reality hurts," said Fort Myers Beach resident Cathy Wetzelberger. "Updates were definitely needed. I lost my home. But if I had upgraded to hurricane standards, it might still be here."

Plus:History-making football field land sells for $80M; Trader Joe's plaza sold; how to get rich with a car wash

Market:In the Know: Remembering some of SWFL's biggest building deals of 2020, with the help of LandQwest

More on DeSantis RVs; FEMA puts in new rules to expand public housing

The governor and his staff responded to my column on issues with temporary public housing in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

We had reached out prior to its publication but didn't hear back after waiting almost a day to publish. However, after the running of the column on Fort Myers Beach residents' concerns that Gov. DeSantis has not fulfilled his promise of "immediately" providing travel trailers on the island that had 97% of its structures destroyed or damaged, his crew followed up with me.

While not all my questions were addressed, a kind state Division of Emergency Management Press Secretary Marnie Villanueva did provide a few details about the DeSantis RV program as part of the Unite Florida initiative.

More:Margaritaville bridge pops into place over Estero Blvd. on Fort Myers Beach | In the Know

And:7 things to know about Fort Myers Beach's 'functional paradise,' new damage estimates

As of Jan. 11, "we’ve received a total of 5,220 Unite Florida applications, with more than 2,500 applications from Lee County residents, 173 applications from Collier County residents and 766 applications from Charlotte County residents," Villanueva said of the statewide program. "Out of all of our applications, more than 610 are approved and awaiting next steps. More than 1,900 total applications are pending due to more information needed from the household, so we encourage applicants to regularly check on their status and keep their applications up-to-date."

While not disclosing where in Florida, Villanueva said, "we have installed 81 travel trailers for survivors in accordance with local jurisdictions’ rules for permitting and in coordination with local utility providers. The division is prioritizing the safe placement of trailers on private property, and exploring leasing agreement options for renters in need of a commercial park site to receive a unit."

She said she knows the mission's not complete.

"The division is working around the clock to authorize Unite Florida applications and place trailers for Hurricane Ian survivors in need," Villanueva said. "There is currently no deadline to apply via the Unite Florida portal, and we will continue to accept applications and place trailers based on demand."

More:Fort Myers Beach leaders promise 'functional paradise' within year; Ian 2nd-biggest insured loss ever

And:A SWFL Margaritaville mystery comes to light. How will it affect beach traffic?

On the other hand, FEMA, which has provided more than $4.5 billion in Hurricane Ian assistance, did quickly respond to interview and question requests within about three hours in time for that previous housing column related to criticism of the federal agency.

And after I had reached out to several members of his team and the column ran, FEMA Deputy Federal Coordinating Officer Keith Denning rolled out unprecedented new rules Thursday he hopes will address many concerns.

"Housing missions are complex. It is the most challenging part of any disaster recovery, especially in areas as hard-hit Southwest Florida, where the housing market was already limited and now is severely damaged," Denning said, as covered by my colleague Samantha "Sam" Neely. "This won't stop us ― it demands we create temporary housing solutions that weren't here before. That's why FEMA is doing things that it normally doesn't do. (These) are extraordinary circumstances."

FEMA Deputy Federal Coordinating Officer Keith Denning discussed temporary housing solutions, including travel trailers and manufactured homes.

More:Amid Hurricane Ian's devastation on Fort Myers Beach, hope persists to rebuild

And:In the Know: 'Muscling through challenges.' Margaritaville debut nearing in SW Florida

Among other directives, FEMA is going to allow temporary housing in what are known as Special Flood Hazard Areas, which includes Fort Myers Beach, with conditions to "minimize the effect of floods on human health, safety, and welfare."

"We all need to consider the impact of temporary units in these areas," Denning said. "If another storm strikes, protecting life and remaining property are paramount."

The new policy allows residents who were previously denied housing to call or visit one of the Disaster Recovery Centers and perhaps get another shot at it.

More:Ian's impact went beyond damage. SW Florida leads state in job loss by far, new stats show

And:Hurricane Ian aftermath: Fort Myers Beach shuffle during recovery 'harder than it has to be'

$6M deal for Bonita Beach's Big Hickory Waterfront becomes official

We first reported last week that a deal was about to come together by the Bonita Springs Fire Department to purchase the bashed Big Hickory Waterfront Grille & Marina.

Now it's official: A $6 million deal that includes adjacent commercial space. While the agency aims to resuscitate a substation there, it hasn't decided what it plans for the rest of the land where there's been business activity for about a half-century on the north end of Bonita Beach.

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.