Gulfshore Business Daily: December 8

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Seal of the School District of Lee County. Credit: WINK News.
Lead Photo: Seal of the School District of Lee County. Credit: WINK News.



After a recent executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis, The School District of Lee County has announced it will continue offering multiple models for instruction throughout the school year. Parents will be given the opportunity to choose the best option for each child. The executive order also says that parents can make changes now instead of waiting until the end of the semester. Parents and guardians of children currently enrolled in face-to-face learning can choose to switch to Lee Home Connect or Lee Virtual School and vice versa with effective dates Jan. 11 or Feb. 1, depending on the specific switch. However, parents seeking to switch instructional models must do so by 5 p.m. Dec. 13, WINK News reports.

Naples Beach Club


The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club is entering its final season before closing May 23, 2021, the longtime local resort announced. The legendary Naples landmark owned and operated by three generations of the Watkins family since 1946 is scheduled to be sold in May to The Athens Group, which plans to redevelop the 125-acre beachfront golf, spa and tennis resort. Plans show the creation of new lodging and residential buildings, including a 220-room luxury hotel and 185 condominiums for a property to be renamed Naples Beach Club Hotel, Residences and Golf Course. There’s still time this season to enjoy more than five months of the historic 319-room resort, which features a beachside swimming complex, a par-71 golf course redesigned by Jack Nicklaus in 2016, Har-Tru tennis courts, a European-style spa, HB’s on the Gulf fine-dining restaurant and the popular Sunset Beach Bar & Grill, one of the best places to view a sunset in Southwest Florida. For reservations, call 239-261-2222 or visit

Island House


New owners have refurbished the longtime Island House in Bonita Springs. The restaurant and bar reopened on Dec. 1 with a new look inside the freestanding house that has been home to the Island House for more than 30 years on the south side of Bonita Beach Road west of U.S. 41. “The food’s upgraded a little bit. We’re doing a little wider menu with healthier options,” says Chris Lytle, who co-owns Island House with his wife Rhonda and also co-owns North Naples Country Club restaurant and bar with his brother. “But we’re keeping the pizza and the hot dogs, which the business was kind of built on.” The new Island House has all the sports packages available on its many TV screens, Lytle said, with live music Friday and Saturday nights and a larger outdoor seating area than before.  Island House Restaurant & Bar, 3801 Bonita Beach Road, is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day with happy hour 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information call 239-498-6900 or go to

Palmera on the River. Credit: Soho Sight LLC


The Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Board of Commissioners has approved a tax increment rebate of $9.535 million for Palmera on the River. Developer Soho Sight LLC will build the seven-story concrete block multi-family community that will feature 221 apartments and a 334-space covered parking structure. This urban infill project will be the first residential tower to be constructed along East First Street since the Beau Rivage, Riviera, and St. Tropez high rises were completed a dozen years ago. Palmera on the River is a project in line with the Fort Myers Downtown Redevelopment Plan, which provides for “vastly improving the economic and social conditions of the community,” according to the Fort Myers CRA. The total cost of the project will be $56.6 million. When completed, the project is estimated to add $36.6 million to the City of Fort Myers’ tax base. For more information, visit

The Family Initiative Lizbeth Benacquisto Autism Support Center building, currently under construction. Credit: Family Initiative Inc. 


Family Initiative Inc. celebrated a construction milestone with the completed painting of the building’s exterior at the Family Initiative Lizbeth Benacquisto Autism Support Center. The building is located next to the organization’s current headquarters at 730 SW Fourth St. in Cape Coral. The new 3,900 square-foot facility will be the area’s first-of-its-kind hub for championing individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families, according to Family Initiative Inc. It features three cutting-edge clinical rooms for direct, evidence-based assessment; therapeutic intervention; and advanced staff training. Funding for the $400,000 project was sourced through a mix of state and private funds. Fort Myers-based Burt Hill/Pollock Krieg Architects provided design services, and Banks Engineering contributed pro bono site work. Mays Construction is the builder. Build-out of the interior space continues. Construction of the Family Initiative Lizbeth Benacquisto Autism Support Center is expected to be completed by the end of the year, and grand opening celebration events are being planned for early 2021.

6-Plex, Towles Garden. Credit: Towles Garden LLC


The Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Board of Commissioners has approved a tax increment rebate of $4.9 million for the development of Towles Garden, a 140-unit affordable townhome community. Towles Garden is a project that the redevelopment plan for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd./VSSB Plan supports and Florida State Statute 163.345(1) encourages working with private enterprise. Developer Towles Garden LLC proposes a $28.7 million investment of 67 affordable and 73 attainable townhomes, to be priced at $200,005 and $210,123 respectively. Units will range in size from 900 to 1,250 square feet. It is estimated that when sold, these units will add $18.5 million (adjusting for $3.5 million in homestead exemptions) to the Fort Myers’ tax base. Construction is expected to begin in February 2021 and be completed in August 2022. For more information, click here.


LeeTran will resume seasonal service to and along Fort Myers Beach, including the free open-air tram, beginning Jan. 3. The beach tram offers fare-free service from Bowditch Point Park to Matanzas Pass Preserve. Three trams run every 15 minutes, depending on traffic, seven days a week starting at 8 a.m. at Bowditch Park with the last pickup at 11:30 p.m. at Matanzas Pass Preserve. The open-air, multi-car trams provide an easy, fun way to travel along the beach from hotels to restaurants to shopping and other attractions. For schedules or to learn more about LeeTran, go to LeeTran customer service can be reached at 239-533-8726 (press option 1).



Evening on Fifth to provide holiday entertainment

Evening on Fifth returns with holiday flair Dec. 10

Evening on Fifth returns to Fifth Avenue South in downtown Naples with a holiday flair from 6:30-9:30 p.m. on Dec. 10. The free event is will feature an array of live musical performances up and down the sidewalks along Fifth Avenue South. Restaurants and bars along the avenue will be offering specials on dining and drinks, and residents and guests will have an opportunity to explore the area’s boutiques, shops and galleries. Evenings on Fifth continues every second Thursday of the month. For further information, call 239-692-8436 or visit

Lee County Legislative Delegation meets Dec. 16

Lee County Legislative Delegation meets from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 16 at Florida Southwestern State College Nursing Building, Room AA-177 to consider local bills, funding requests, and public commentary for the 2021 State Legislative Session, according to the Real Estate Investment Society (REIS). Bills must be submitted and presentations registered by Dec. 7 with Brandon Miller, legislative assistant to Delegation Chair Spencer Roach. The agenda and meeting materials will be on The delegation includes all legislators serving the county and representatives of the six municipalities.



Neighborhood Health Clinic welcomes DeChirico

Neighborhood Health Clinic has appointed Gregg DeChirico as a development associate with the clinic.  DeChirico has compiled more than 20 years of nonprofit experience working with organizations like The San Francisco Foundation, Peninsula Community Foundation and Santa Barbara Foundation. Most eecently, DeChirico worked as a community development consultant helping smaller nonprofits with their endowment, legacy and donor engagement plans. Dechirico will work within the development office supporting fundraising and donor engagement sharing his professional expertise to help the clinic continue delivering lifesaving medical and dental services to low-income, working but uninsured individuals in Collier County. 

Courtney McNeil

Artis—Naples announces museum director, chief curator of The Baker Museum

Artis—Naples has appointed Courtney McNeil as museum director and chief curator of The Baker Museum. McNeil joins Artis—Naples from Telfair Museums in Savannah, Georgia, where she worked for nearly 15 years. During that time, she served as curator of fine arts and exhibitions, chief curator and deputy director for curatorial affairs and, most recently, as interim co-managing director. At Telfair Museums, McNeil curated dozens of exhibitions, including Collecting Impressionism: Telfair’s Modern Vision and Mickalene Thomas at Giverny. After a nationwide search process, McNeil was the unanimous choice of the search committee, which included members of the Artis—Naples Board of Directors, the Museum Board Committee and Artis─Naples administrative staff. A graduate of Georgetown University and the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, McNeil will begin her role on Jan. 18, 2021.

Clive Daniel Home installs $4.3M Forge Construction spec home in Naples

Clive Daniel Home’s multiple award-winning interior design team of Michael Scott, IDS and Thomas Riker provided design services for furniture installation in a 4,601-square-foot, four-bedroom/five-bath Forge Construction spec home in the exclusive Moorings community in Naples. The designers were able to create a soothing interior by sheer inspiration based on the oil-on-water effect. While sea glass blues dominate, the furnishings are modern but comfortable ranging from ink blue in the twin bedroom to soft light gray-blues in the master suite. Lounge in deep-seated chairs adorned in fawn taupe suede, and relax in style in shadow purple leather dining seating. Inside/outside living is prevalent in numerous seating groups surrounded by a contemporary fireplace and a large outdoor television screen. Relax by the beach pool in sleek white loungers. For more information about Clive Daniel Home’s interior design services, visit them online or contact Madeline Tracy, Naples showroom director of business development, at 239-776-0868. 



Trevor Smith Memorial Foundation supports Youth Haven

Youth Haven Inc. received a $20,000 donation from the Trevor Smith Memorial Foundation on #GivingTuesday, held Dec. 1. The funds were raised during the foundation’s annual T-Rex Tournament Series’ “One Last Cast” fishing tournament, which took place on Oct. 16 – 17 in Marco Island. This donation will be used to support the children and teens that depend on Youth Haven for home, hope and healing. Youth Haven’s 25-acre therapeutic campus houses more than 70 youth with a waking staff system that allows for around-the-clock specialized care.

Slaw Dog tournament to benefit Paul Sands Memorial – REIS Scholarship program

The 24th annual Paul Sands Memorial Slaw Dog Invitational golf tournament takes place Dec. 16. Real Estate Investment Society (REIS) Member Lisa Sands has ignited interest in the event, which is the largest source of funding for the Paul Sands Memorial – REIS Scholarship program at Florida Gulf Coast University. Contribute to the REIS scholarship program by clicking here or contacting Bev Larson, 239-281-1290. The REIS Scholarship Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization that enables individuals and businesses to make tax-deductible donations in support of scholarships. The Real Estate Investment Society (REIS) manages the Foundation, allowing 100% of donations to be used for scholarships in real estate-related programs at Florida Gulf Coast University. 

Fort Myers Woman’s Club to present Holiday House 2020: ‘Winter Wonderland’

The Fort Myers Woman’s Community Club is presenting the 64th Annual Holiday House, “Winter Wonderland,” the benefit the Uncommon Friends Foundation. Every year since 1956, hundreds of members and volunteers of the Fort Myers Woman’s Community Club spend hours planning creative designs to transform the interior and exterior of the Langford-Kingston and Burroughs homes, including the lawns, gardens, and grounds, into displays of holiday design and décor. Natalie Van Horn is the 2020 Holiday House chair. Holiday House 2020 will open Dec. 9, offering self-guided tours through Dec. 20. The hours are 5-9 p.m., with the last tour guests admitted at 8:30 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults. Children under age 10 are free. Veterans and active military service members are admitted free with identification. Advance tickets are on sale now and may be purchased through the Fort Myers Woman’s Community Club website. Tickets may also be purchased at the door.

Norris Furniture & Interiors participating in ‘Military Makeover’ for local veteran

Norris Furniture & Interiors is providing furniture and furnishings to a local wounded veteran as part of “Military Makeover,” airing on Lifetime Network. The national series transforms the homes and lives of military veterans and their families. A resident of Cape Coral, Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Burgess was chosen to have his home renovated as part of the television series. In 2011, Burgess was injured by a hidden improvised explosive device (IED) as he was working with Marines to help a population in Afghanistan identify, avoid, and remove explosive traps left by the Taliban. The recovery process from his injuries is still ongoing, and his family desires to make their home safer and more accommodating for him. Norris designer Angela DiFranceisco will coordinate with Home & Garden Television’s (HGTV) Jennifer Bertrand to select several items for the Burgess’ dining room and master bedroom at Norris’ Fort Myers showroom. Norris will deliver all of the furniture to the newly renovated home and be part of the reveal on Dec. 12. The full renovation will be unveiled in a seven-part series of the “Military Makeover” program airing on Lifetime Network starting Feb. 12 and concluding March 26.
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