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Chris Beane grew up on Sanibel Island. After spending 15 years as a commodities trader on Wall Street and then developing a marina in Portland, Maine, returning home resonated with him.

In 2018, Beane began envisioning the Sanibel Toy Box, a luxury storage facility for boats, cars and whatever people couldn’t fit in a home garage in Southwest Florida.

“We didn’t want to be on [U.S.] 41,” Beane said of the location. “We didn’t want to be on [Interstate] 75. Our model is completely intended to be an extension of your garage at home.”

The painful irony is that the 55,000-square-foot facility will not be ready until about 17 months after Hurricane Ian devastated Sanibel and coastal Southwest Florida on Sept. 28. Boats, cars and other vehicles could have been undamaged inside the Sanibel Toy Box, Beane said.

The facility will break ground on almost 5 acres at 16998 McGregor Blvd. in south Fort Myers in early 2023 across the street from the Sanibel Outlets mall, which has been closed indefinitely since the storm. 

Beane’s development team, which includes GMA Architects, Stevens Construction as the builder and LSI Companies as the broker, received approval from the South Florida Water Management District to build, expecting to open in early 2024.

There will be 44 storage units ranging from 1,100 to 1,500 square feet. They will have doors 14-by-14 feet, and the facility will be built 12 feet above ground level, safely above where Hurricane Ian flooded the area. The concrete block walls will resist winds of up to 170 mph.

“It will be like a fortress in the sky,” said Dan Adams, the executive vice president of Stevens Construction. “We’re going to build a 12-foot retaining wall around the whole thing. Our floor is about a foot higher than the highest point of Ian’s storm surge. We wouldn’t even have gotten water on our doorsteps.”

The price will be about $400 per square foot, with the smaller units selling for about $440,000. Justin Thibaut, CEO of LSI Companies, said three of the 44 units sold before even breaking ground.

“The location is so important,” Thibaut said of the site, just two miles from the Sanibel Causeway. “That’s one of the things that sets this place apart from all the others. It’s the most accessible site to all the barrier islands. It’s close to the islands, but it serves all of Southwest Florida.”

Beane’s company, TYBX4 LLC, purchased the almost five acres for $1.1 million in October 2019.

“The heartbreak is that I didn’t have it ready before Hurricane Ian,” Beane said. “It’s really going to be like a castle with a moat around it.”

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