Different Avenues: Bonita Beach Road

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While Bonita Springs might once have been considered the middle of nowhere, it’s now the center of everything in Southwest Florida. Its prime location between the Naples and Fort Myers markets has made Bonita Beach Road, Exit 116 off Interstate 75, a magnet for residential and commercial growth.

Bonita Springs government looks beyond today’s traffic capacity for Bonita Beach Road, hoping to focus on creating a “majestic parkway”—a destination and a multimodal connector for the city’s main east-west route that stretches more than 10 miles from Bonita Beach Park to Bonita National Golf & Country Club. Although it’s the driveway to more than 10 gated communities or country clubs, the road is not a posh boulevard by any stretch.

Of course, the local route had even humbler beginnings, recalls Ben Nelson, a third-generation Floridian who was mayor of Bonita Springs from 2008 to 2016 and served on the Bonita City Council from 2000 to 2008.

“Bonita Beach Road was kind of barely a road. It started at Old 41, didn’t really go east at all, and so it just went out toward the beach and stopped when it hit the beach,” Nelson says. “From that evolution, people just started carving up development and going where they wanted to. It’s just this motion east, this development toward the east, that’s pretty recent. It wasn’t that long ago if you went east of I-75 on Bonita Beach Road there was relatively nothing.”

The road remains utilitarian; a metaphorical collection of nuts and bolts that comes in handy when one needs a dentist or a barber or food and drink. The section west of U.S. 41, part of it in Collier County, feels more trapped in time and is home to a disjointed row of notable dining spots. As its name implies, Bonita Beach Road—often called just Beach Road—leads to the beach, but this historical local road is seeing new development, which often follows the path of least resistance, Nelson reminds us. Sandwiched between the faster-growing North Naples and Estero, Bonita has become a hot market.

The perceptibly new businesses, such as Curaleaf and Trulieve marijuana dispensaries and the Bonita Breeze luxury auto condominiums, take their place among quirkier longtime establishments: Dolly’s Produce Patch & Eatery, Golf Safari, Flamingo Island Flea Market and Master Bait & Tackle. The Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track links the history to the future. Demolition began this summer on the dog track’s massive grandstand, which packed in spectators for live racing that began in the late 1950s and ended in May 2020.

HISTORICAL CHANGES: Demolition began this summer on Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track, which hosted live dog racing from the late 1950s to May 2020 just off Bonita Beach Road in Bonita Springs.

Anticipation has been building for what lies ahead at that site. An indoor-outdoor adventure park recently was proposed to replace the entertainment venture next to the new Bonita Springs Poker Room that opened last year. Officially, the Havenick family, who own the nearly 100 acres on the southeast corner of Bonita Beach Road and Old 41 Road, are saying only that they are seeking something tourism-related that will benefit the community, especially children and young families.

Izzy Havenick

“We want to plan right. For us, the core business obviously is the poker room. We want to make sure what we do is complementary to that,” says Isadore “Izzy” Havenick.

Adrenalin World, proposed by former professional tennis stars David Lloyd and Johan Kriek, would feature about 20 indoor and outdoor sports and activities. Potential features may include climbing walls, go-karts, miniature golf, trampolines, virtual reality rooms and zip lines.

“We look forward to engage with our team from all over the world to bring this concept to Bonita Springs and create something very special not only for the Bonita Springs resident, but to do great things for schools, kids and companies in team-building events in the SW Florida region, but most of all create jobs. This is a very robust $30 million project on 21.89 acres, and we look forward to working with the different departments in Bonita Springs,” Kriek wrote in a June letter to the mayor and city council members.

REDEVELOPING ATTRACTIONS: Adrenalin World, an indoor-outdoor adventure park, recently was proposed to replace the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track. After the track permanently closed last year, the new Bonita Springs Poker Room (below right) launched on Bonita Beach Road in Bonita Springs.

Destinations for young families are sorely needed in the area, Councilman Jesse Purdon said. He feels that Adrenalin World, proposed less than 2 miles from City Hall, would put Bonita Springs on the map for families in Southwest Florida.

“This one is for the families. I think it’s going to be a winner,” he says. “I think it’s going to create way more jobs than the dog track ever did.”

Across the street on the northeast corner of Old 41 and Bonita Beach Road, Entrada commercial center nears completion after an extensive redevelopment project of the former First National Bank of Bonita Springs office, built in the 1960s and added onto in the ’70s and ’80s, said Steve Hovland of Naples-based Hovland Real Estate.

“I’m so proud of that one,” Hovland says. “When you see the inside and see the tenants we are attracting in this modern world, you’ll be saying, ‘Are you kidding me?’ It’s a totally different building than I ever dreamed of. Out of 73 buildings, Entrada is my favorite I’ve ever done.”

A minimalist retail-office center, Entrada is designed for the workforce, the post-Boomer generations that often are ignored in the Southwest Florida market, Hovland said. Tenants include a first responder school, a holistic medicine business, Napoli on the Bay Pizzeria and The Bohemian, a new local restaurant concept from the owners of nearby Downtown Coffee & Wine Co.

On Bonita Beach Road west of U.S. 41, the former Rodes Restaurant & Fish Market was razed at the end of January to make way for new dining options and much more. The adjacent Bonita Village resort-style condominium will be rebranded as Cabana Resort and expanded eastward, creating a 25-acre destination with a new 110-unit luxury condominium and 7 acres of pools, plus a winding lazy river, surf machines and other water features. A hotel and a promenade with shops and an air-conditioned grand food hall are planned fronting Bonita Beach Road, said Omer Dror, the owner of Bonita Village and the future Cabana Resort. “I’m really trying to create experiential retail, a place where people can have a really good time and feel relaxed,” Dror says.

 

REIMAGINED RESORT: Bonita Village resort-style condominium will be rebranded as Cabana Resort and expanded to create a 25-acre destination with new luxury condominiums, water attractions, a public promenade, retail shops and restaurants along the north side of Bonita Beach Road west of U.S. 41.

 

EAST OF INTERSTATE 75

The proximity to the interstate interchange, the tremendous number of residential units being developed to the east and the new Logan Boulevard extension connecting Bonita and North Naples all help make the location attractive to developers.

“The high-end country clubs and everything on the south side of Bonita Beach is wonderful, as well,” says Ryan Zuckerman, president of Zuckerman Homes, still finalizing a site plan for its Midtown at Bonita 67-acre development on the northwest corner of Bonita Grande Drive and Bonita Beach Road. The city has approved the proposed project for up to 482 multi-family dwelling units, 315,000 square feet of commercial and retail space up to five stories and a maximum six-story, 165-room hotel.

“It will definitely be a mixed-use project with residential and commercial components, and potentially a hotel component,” Zuckerman says. “We’re still working it through. There’s a lot of due diligence and data and research that goes into that, because you don’t want to design something that’s not going to work.”

COMMUNITY PROPOSAL: Zuckerman Homes is finalizing plans for Midtown at Bonita, a 67-acre development proposed with waterways on the northwest corner of Bonita Grande Drive and Bonita Beach Road. The city has approved the project for up to 482 multi-family residential units, 315,000 square feet of commercial space and a six-story, 165-room hotel.

The end of the corridor features residential projects well represented by many national homebuilders, including Lennar, Pulte, D.R. Horton and GL Homes. These thousands of rooftops have lacked essential amenities nearby. “That’s what really attracted us. They have no goods and services that they can get that are close to them,” Zuckerman says.

Until recently, residents in the many communities east of Interstate 75 on Bonita Beach Road had to drive for just about everything outside of Publix supermarket in Bonita Grande Crossing.

“It’s just kind of been a shame that all those rooftops in east Bonita have kind of gone without some of those services for as long as they have,” says Adam Palmer, state-wide managing principal for LandQwest. That commercial real estate firm handles the leasing and property management for SouthLinks Commons, a 10-building commerce park with flex space nearing completion on the south side of Bonita Beach Road just east of I-75. The interstate proximity, quickly connecting Lee and Collier counties, is the key to the Bonita Beach Road development, Palmer said; “Bonita is the north North Naples.”

McGarvey Development Co., based in SouthLinks, is completing the ninth and 10th buildings of the project. It’s a spot where many folks remember seeing a couple of cows grazing not long ago. “Among those two buildings, more than half is already reserved. Buildings 1 through 8 are already at full occupancy,” Palmer says. “And so, it’s really been like a Kevin Costner Field of Dreams kind of circumstance. You know, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ There’s just been an incredible amount of demand for that kind of product type in that area.”

A significant reason for that demand stems from the limited amount of industrial inventory that exists in nearby Collier County. “At the same time, Naples has been experiencing a lot of growth, in general. When you have that kind of growth going on in Naples, then you have industrial service needs to service that area,” Palmer says. “So, as these industrial companies were growing in Naples and needing more space, they kind of had two options: They could move out to 951 and 75 where, for the most part, your entire eastern hemisphere of your demographics is an alligator. Or, you could move up to Bonita Beach and 75 where you can cater to multiple markets and at a lesser cost than Naples. So, I think that’s kind of been the secret sauce to that project’s success.”

One of the largest pieces of undeveloped land in Bonita Springs was purchased for $6 million earlier this year, in a deal brokered by LSI Companies for what is expected to be a gated residential community. Naples-based Barron Collier Companies and Fort Myers-based Seagate Development Group have teamed up, planning to develop the 175-acre property on the north side of Bonita Beach Road just west of the Logan roundabout and adjacent to preserved lands of CREW, the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed. The proposal is still in the early planning stages, so neither Seagate nor Barron Collier Cos. are ready to reveal specific plans there.

The aforementioned developments merely scratch the surface, of course. Despite its long and colorful history, one can’t help feeling that Bonita Beach Road still hasn’t realized its full potential … that the best may be yet to come.

RETAIL OPPORTUNITIES: Nearing completion on the northeast corner of Old 41 Road and Bonita Beach Road, a new retail-office center named Entrada is under construction. The extensive redevelopment of what began as the former First National Bank of Bonita Springs branch has offices, retail shops and restaurants with outdoor dining.

 

Proposed developments for Bonita Beach Road

CABANA RESORT: A 25-acre destination with a combination of public and private amenities is proposed for the north side of Bonita Beach Road west of U.S. 41. Bonita Village gated condominium community will be rebranded as Cabana Resort and expanded across adjacent land. The redevelopment plans show a seven-story luxury condominium complex with 110 units, a promenade, performance lawn, neighborhood park and 7 acres of pools and water features, including a lazy river. A hotel and a space for restaurants and retail shops also are planned along Bonita Beach Road.

ENTERTAINMENT MECCA: Adrenalin World, an indoor-outdoor adventure park with multiple activities for children and young adults, has been imagined on more than 21 acres that was the site of Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track for nearly five decades. The Miami-based Havenick family, which has owned the nearly 100 acres on that southeast corner of Old 41 and Bonita Beach Road since the 1960s, hopes to eventually create an entertainment mecca to complement its new Bonita Springs Poker Room there.

ENTRADA: On the northeast corner of Old 41 and Bonita Beach Road, Entrada nears completion after an extensive redevelopment project by Hovland Real Estate. The bright white buildings will be home to new offices, retail shops and restaurants with outdoor dining. The Bohemian, a new eatery from the owners of nearby Downtown Coffee & Wine Co., and Napoli on the Bay Pizza both have spaces there, as will other retailers.

HORIZON PARK: Hotels, retail space and medical offices are proposed at Horizon Park on the southeast corner of Interstate 75 and Bonita Beach Road. An 80-room Staybridge Suites and a 70-room Avid Hotel are proposed to be built behind a 50,000-square-foot NCH medical campus and two small retail centers on that 18-acre property just west of SouthLinks Commons and north of Hunters Ridge Golf & Country Club.

MIDTOWN AT BONITA: A 67-acre mixed-use development named Midtown at Bonita is planned on the northwest corner of Bonita Grande Drive and Bonita Beach Road. Zuckerman Group plans a tree-lined community with residential units and commercial components, as well as a possible hotel. Nearly half of the acreage will be dedicated to open spaces, lakes and preserves.

NEW NEIGHBORHOOD: Barron Collier Cos. and Seagate Development Group have teamed up to build a proposed gated residential community on one of the largest pieces of undeveloped land in Bonita Springs. The 175-acre property at 14780 Bonita Beach Road SE, just west of the Logan Boulevard roundabout and across from Palmira Golf & Country Club, will offer lake and preserve views, as well as passive recreation for its future residents. The unnamed community is still in the planning stages.

SOUTHLINKS COMMONS: The 26-acre SouthLinks Commons mixed-use commercial park nears completion just east of Interstate 75 on the south side of Bonita Beach Road, stretching from Hunters Ridge Boulevard to Publix-anchored Boni- ta Grande Crossing. The eight-building business park includes about 260,000 square feet of office-industrial flex units and spaces for warehouses, retail, medical offices and general office space. It is being built by McGarvey Development Co., which also owns the complex and is headquartered there.

 

Photo Credit: Tim Aten (demolition photo); Courtesy Havenick family for historical images, Courtesy Adrenalin World, PBS Contractors, Pamediastrategies.com, Courtesy Cabana Resort, Courtesy Trinity Commercial Group, Courtesy Zuckerman Homes, Courtesy Entrada

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