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In Honor of John R. Wood’s 60th Anniversary!

Members of the John R. Wood leadership team recently attended the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® (LeadingRE) Annual Conference Week in Las Vegas where President, Phil Wood, and Director, Relocations and Referrals, Ginny Alexander, were honored with the Awards of Excellence Outgoing Referral Production (RP) in the firm’s category.

The award recognizes companies that are best able to assist customers with their real estate needs around the world. Nearly 50 percent of John R. Wood agents, did in fact, assist customers by helping them locate a reputable real estate company in a non-Southwest Florida area.

“The Wood firm uses the extensive connections of Luxury Portfolio and Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® to provide clients with reliable professionals in other areas of the globe, whether the customer needs to purchase or sell in that area. John R. Wood is deeply honored to receive the Outgoing Referral Production award, particularly because it is based on results by units among the best names in real estate and the world’s leading independent brokerages,” said Phil Wood, President of John R. Wood Properties.

With an elite audience of nearly 3,000 real estate professionals from 24 countries, six other members of LeadingRE were nominated for the Awards of Excellence; Michael Sanders and Company of Sarasota, Coach Real Estate Associates, Inc. of New York, Jack Conway and Company of Massachusetts, Lyon Real Estate of Sacrament, CA, and Shorewest, REALTORS®. According to Ginny Alexander, “The companies were measured for sending the most outgoing referrals per agents, and John R. Wood won the prestigious award for having the highest production percentage per agent.”

The conference was open only to brokers, managers and relocation professionals affiliated with LeadingRE, an invitation-only network of the highest quality independent real estate companies, and John R. Wood was nominated for multiple awards and honors. The Wood firm was also slated for Outgoing Sales Production (SPR), Equivalent Outgoing Sales Production, Crown of Excellence Award, and the Diamond Award.

The Wood firm also participated in a LeadingRE marketing contest and brought home two other accolades: 1) John R. Wood Properties was given an Honorable Mention for a consumer materials piece, and 2) Second Place for an internal video.

John R. Wood Properties is the SWFL representative of LeadingRE . With a global membership that spans six continents, LeadingRE connects more than 565 firms and 130,000 sales associates who produce over 1.1 million real estate transactions each year. As a member of LeadingRE, the Wood firm provides a quality real estate experience, global marketing reach and access to top real estate professionals in virtually any market worldwide.

John R. Wood is the oldest real estate company in Southwest Florida with six decades of industry and market experience, the firm is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. The firm currently has fourteen offices serving Marco Island, Naples, Bonita Springs, Estero, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Ave Maria, and Sanibel/Captiva Islands, with over 500 agents and staff across Southwest Florida. For more information about John R. Wood Properties and our elite real estate agents, visit

Naples Luxury Home Sales Surging

The new year came with some big purchases for Naples home buyers.

Closed sales of luxury properties — homes above $1 million — increased 123 percent over closed luxury sales in January 2017, according to the January 2018 market report released by the Naples Area Board of Realtors.

“Thank goodness for the luxury properties for sale; they are driving the market,” said Bill Coffey, broker manager of Amerivest Realty Naples.

Pending sales of homes priced above $1 million also increased 67 percent in January compared with last January, Coffey said.

The monthly NABOR report tracks all sales made through the Southwest Florida MLS, excluding Marco Island.

Mike Hughes, vice president and general manager for Downing-Frye Realty Inc., believes the reason for the sudden spike in luxury home sales could have something to do with Hurricane Irma, which hit Southwest Florida in September.

“The storm blew in a lot of business,” Hughes said. “I believe that some buyers who would have purchased in the fourth quarter of 2017 delayed their decision until the first quarter of 2018. It looks like we are off to a good start this year with respect to sales.”

NABOR reported overall closed sales for January to be up 11 percent in Collier County compared to January 2017.

There were 671 single-family and condominium sales in January, up 11 percent from last January, according to NABOR data.

Overall market statistics show a 10 percent decrease in closed sales for homes $300,000 and under in January compared to last January.

There was a 23 percent decrease in the number of single-family homes sold in the under $300,000 range, and pending sales, or new contracts written, declined 24 percent year-over-year.

The number of sales in the $300,000-$500,00 price range declined to 156 in January, a 4 percent decrease over the same month last year.

Naples Beach area stood out to buyers in the single-family home market, with pending sales up 51 percent over last January.

Median closed prices throughout Naples were also up in January compared to last January.

For the entire market, the overall median closed price increased 19 percent to $375,000 in January. January’s median closed prices decreased 19 percent in the $2 million and above price category.

The median price is the price at which half of the homes sell for more and half for less.

“For a long time we saw double-digit increases in median closed prices for single-family homes in the $0 to $300,000 market,” said Cindy Carroll, SRA of Carroll & Carroll Appraisers and Consultants LLC. “But for January, the report showed only a 4 percent increase year over year.”

The January report showed the median closed price f or homes under $300,000 was $255,000. However, the median closed price of homes over $300,000 was $505,000.

While prices continued to increase, Collier County inventory showed a decrease of 5 percent. That translated to 258 fewer homes on the market compared to last January’s inventory.

“There’s an ongoing shortage of housing inventory in many markets across Florida,” said Florida Realtors President Christine Hansen, brokerowner with Century 21 Hansen Realty in Fort Lauderdale. “January’s statewide home sales reflected the tight supply, and — when combined with rising median sales prices — it puts pressure on potential homebuyers.”

January was a hot month for condominium sales in Naples.

Closed sales of condominiums increased 23 percent in January compared to January 2017, while closed sales of single-family homes decreased 1 percent, according to NABOR reports.

“Lately, condo and townhouse sales growth has been outpacing that of single- family homes, and the reason is that the picture for condos and townhouses has been much more balanced. The single- family home market, by contrast, continues to be held back by inadequate levels of new construction,” said Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. Brad O’Connor.

Reports reflected 150 closed sales of condominiums in North Naples in January, a 150 percent increase over January 2017. The median closed prices in North Naples increased 428 percent.

According to a NABOR release, 79 closings from a newly built luxury high rise condominium in North Naples impacted closed sales, median closed price and days on market figures for the month.

Those 79 condominiums sold between $1.8 million and $2.5 million, NABOR reported.

To view the report, visit

Source: Jennifer Beeson; Naples Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA

Hoffmanns Have Grand Plans For Downtown Naples

David Hoffmann oozes his love for — and faith in — Naples.

It’s why his company, Hoffmann Commercial Real Estate, headquartered in Chicago, has become the city’s largest commercial property owner and landlord.

“We just think it’s one of the most wonderful places,” Hoffmann said.

In a little over two years, the real estate company has amassed a collection of more than 20 properties in the Naples area, valued at more than $300 million. Most of the buildings are clustered around Fifth Avenue South or Third Street South.

The buying spree isn’t over, with more properties under contract.

“We plan to have 30 buildings by the end of the year,” Hoffmann said.

Whether it’s day or night, Fifth Avenue South has shops, restaurants and some activities that would be great for a date. Lauren Kummer

That’s not all: David Hoffmann — founder and chairman of Hoffmann Commercial Real Estate — and his son, Greg, the firm’s chief executive, have grander plans, including bringing more entertainment to downtown Naples.

The Hoffmanns are also buying up local businesses as they see the opportunity to grow them.

Their five-year vision for downtown Naples includes attracting a high-end movie theater and a quaint, six-lane bowling alley, as places for adults to hang out.

“We would love to see a high-end luxury women’s spa down here, and that’s because my wife wants one,” David Hoffmann said.

The Hoffmanns want another boutique hotel downtown, which they hope will happen with the redevelopment of the long-vacant Third Street Plaza, where owners Anne and Charles Camalier III have proposed building a 118-room hotel.

“It’s a great vision. We’ll help them in any way we can for that to happen,” David Hoffmann said.

 Since 2015, the Hoffmanns have helped attract two high-end restaurants to their buildings: The French and Sails.

The company has kept most of the tenants that came along with its buildings, and there are few vacancies.

Rick Rinella recently joined Hoffmann’s team as president of restaurant development in Naples. He’s an experienced restaurant manager, who last worked at The French, which debuted on Fifth Avenue a little over a year ago.

“We will continue to attract high-end restaurateurs into our buildings in Naples when the space becomes available. We may buy interests here in restaurants that are in our buildings,” Rinella said.

 As other tenants choose to leave, the Hoffmanns hope to bring in global luxury brands of the likes of Louis Vuitton and Chanel.

“That’s our biggest problem,” David Hoffmann said. “We don’t have any vacancy.”

The company has taken over and enhanced the executive suites that came with two of its buildings, with plans to expand the co-working concept on Fifth, to take it to Third Street — and to grow it nationally.

The real estate firm has hired Madelene Columbus to drive the expansion of the new venture, known as Hoffmann Executive Suites. She previously worked as an area manager for Regus, the world’s largest shared office provider, in Southwest Florida.

There are already executive suites at 649 Fifth Ave. S. and 405 Fifth Ave. S. In a few months they’ll open at 365 Fifth Ave. S. above The French restaurant.

“It can be individual offices,” Columbus said. “We can tailor-make the configuration to fit the business that’s coming in, and we also offer virtual offices, conference rooms and meeting rooms and administrative services.”

Her goal is to create a professional yet relaxed and inspiring atmosphere, offering high-end private and shared offices under monthly or long-term payment agreements.

For the Hoffmanns, the real estate purchases in Naples are long-term investments made for the family, including grandchildren.

 “We are redevelopers and long-term holders of real estate,” David Hoffmann said.

Going forward the Hoffmanns won’t just expand their local reach through real estate investments. Since January they’ve purchased two local companies — and a third could soon be acquired.

The family bought Sunmaster of Naples, a 30-year-old company that designs and manufactures custom canvas awnings, metal gates and screens for storm protection and security. The purchase presented an opportunity to extend the “family’s mission to invest in solid and proven business models in the Naples community,” David Hoffmann said.

The acquisition will give Sunmaster the opportunity to expand nationally, while allowing the Hoffmanns to speed up improvements at their buildings.

David Hoffmann and his wife, Jerri, came across the Adelheidi’s store on Fifth Avenue South during a stroll, stepped inside and fell in love with the food. The Hoffmanns want to help founders Marion and Jens Schuppenhauer realize a dream to bring their food to the world market.

The investment from the Hoffmanns will enable the Schuppenhauers to pursue opportunities to franchise and to expand their reach to include grocery stores.

“It’s a huge opportunity for us, and we are really happy to join the Hoffmann family group,” Marion Schuppenhauer said. “It’s an exciting thing for us.”

The Hoffmann enterprises could have a few hundred employees in the Naples area by the end of the year if all of the planned business acquisitions happen.

Hoffmann Commercial Real Estate operates as a division of Osprey Capital LLC and has a diverse portfolio that includes dozens of properties in multiple states.

David Hoffmann founded Osprey Capital, a private equity firm, in 2002, with interests that range from executive search and real estate to aviation and wine-making. The company has a presence in 27 countries, with more than 100 locations that span the globe.

It has been about four years since David Hoffmann and his wife started coming to Naples regularly. How did they discover the city?

“You know we’re from Chicago,” Hoffmann said. “I think half of the population in Chicago has a place in Naples.”

Now a year-round Naples resident, he can be found driving and walking often on Fifth and Third, taking the pulse of what’s going on. He loves the restaurants, especially the fried bologna sandwich at The Bevy.

“I’ve gained 15 pounds,” he said. “I keep outgrowing my pants.”

The senior Hoffmann has no intentions of retiring or slowing down anytime soon.

“It’s just fun,” he said. “I love to work. I’m not a very good golfer. You can ask my friends.”

Since relocating to Naples in 2016, he and his wife have gotten involved in the community. They recently became trustees of the Naples Children & Education Foundation, which raises millions for needy children annually through its Naples Winter Wine Festival. He serves on the board for Artis—Naples, and she sits on the board of the Fifth Avenue South Business Improvement District.

The Hoffmann presence has been felt downtown. The company has improved on parking, upgraded its buildings inside and out, and added a statue walk on Fifth Avenue.

 The statues on their property — roughly 10 and counting — have become popular spots for photos, which warms David Hoffmann’s heart.

“I love seeing people getting photos taken with our sculptures,” he said. “That’s just a hoot for me.”

“I’m all for improvements,” he said. “It’s wonderful the artwork that they’ve introduced to Fifth Avenue. It was at their cost.”

McCabe would love to see a bowling alley and a movie theater downtown, he said, as well as another upscale hotel, which have been talked about for years.

“Bring on the change,” he said. “I’m all for it, but I just want good change, quality change, change with good planning, good connectivity inour community.”

Source: Naples Daily News

Is Inflation Rising, As Investors Fear It Is?

WASHINGTON – After nearly a decade of being all but invisible, inflation — or the fear of it — is back.

Tentative signs have emerged that prices could accelerate in coming months.  Pay raises may be picking up a bit.  Commodities such as oil and aluminum have grown more expensive.  Cellphone plans are likely to appear costlier.

The specter of high inflation has spooked many investors, who worry it would force up interest rates, making it costlier f or consumers and businesses to borrow and weighing down corporate profits and ultimately the economy.  Historically, fear of high inflation has led the Federal Reserve to step up its short-term interest rate increases.

It’s a big reason investors have dumped stocks and bonds in the past two weeks.

Yet for all the market turmoil, inflation for now remains quite low: Prices, excluding the volatile food and energy categories, have risen just 1.7 percent in the past year.  That’s below the Fed’s target of 2 percent annual inflation.

Most economists expect inflation to edge up and end the year a few tenths of a percentage point above the Fed’s target.  But, most foresee only minimal effect on the economy.

“I don’t think that’s a huge tragedy,” said Mark Vitner, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities.

Inflation, though, is hard to forecast.  One widely followed gauge is the government’s monthly report on consumer price inflation.  The January CPI report will come out Wednesday.

Here are some ways to track the direction of inflation in the coming months:

How much does your cellphone plan cost?

Roughly a year ago, major wireless carriers like Verizon and AT& T began offering unlimited wireless data plans.  This enabled their customers to watch more video, stream more music and trade more photos.  It also lowered inflation.

That’s because government statisticians don’t simply review price changes when they calculate inflation.  They also try to measure what consumers actually receive for what they pay. Because unlimited data plans are a better deal, they in effect lowered the overall cost of wireless phone services.   Many economists cited this as a reason inflation slowed last year even as the unemployment rate fell.  Still, the cellphone plans were a one-time change.  In March, their impact will pass from the government’s year-over-year inflation calculations.  Most analysts expect this change to boost that month’s inflation estimate.

How much will paychecks rise?

There are tantalizing early signs that many employers, grappling with low unemployment and a shortage of workers, are finally raising pay to attract and keep more workers.   Average hourly pay rose 2.9 percent in January from a year earlier, the sharpest year- over-year increase in eight years.   A separate quarterly measure from the Labor Department showed that wages and salaries in the final three months of last year grew at the fastest pace in almost three years.

In theory, higher pay can lead to inflation: Companies raise prices to offset their higher wage bill.

But it doesn’t always work that way.  Pay climbed at a 4 percent annual clip in the late 1990’s, for example, and yet core inflation barely rose.  It edged up to about 2.6 percent from 2.3 percent.

Companies can choose to eat the extra cost and report lower profits. They could also use the proceeds from last year’s tax cut to pay higher wages even while keeping prices in check.

How plentiful are workers?

Another factor that may keep wages low and limit inflation is that plenty of workers are still available overseas.  Companies could shift work abroad if pay gets too high.

And there may be more people in the United States available to fill jobs than the low 4.1 percent unemployment rate would suggest. The proportion of Americans who have jobs still hasn’t returned to its pre-recession peak.

Source: Christopher Rugaber;  ASSOCIATED PRESS

Nan Speaks Naples: JRW Once Again Top In Naples!

Closed sales, newly pended sales, and average sales prices have remained stable over the past two years.  At the end of 2016, inventory was trending toward an oversupply with increases in every price segment for both single family homes and condominiums and 7.3 months of supply in the overall market.

By the end of 2017, inventory had decreased by 5% while demand remained high, resulting in a more balanced market with 6.8 months of supply.  My Southwest Florida market can sometimes shift quickly from a balanced state to one that favors the buyer or seller, depending upon the dynamics that change. If inventory continues to decrease, and buyer demand remains strong, it could shift to favor sellers and push prices higher.

Alternatively, if inventory remains stable or grows and buyer demand decreases, the shift could favor buyers. The outlook for 2018 is for the market to continue the stable trend of the past two years, with moderate price appreciation and an ample supply of product from which buyers can choose.  Just recently I am seeing a slight downward pressure on asking prices, and adjustments by sellers.

Well priced listings, like mine, sell readily!

Should You Pay Off That Mortgage Before Retirement?

Should you pay off that mortgage before heading into retirement?

For the average American, owning a home outright is a major objective in life from both a financial and a psychological perspective.  However, it may not always be the best strategy.

“The question comes up all the time with clients and for most preretirees — the goal is to pay off the mortgage,” said Lazetta Rainey Braxton, a certified financial planner who serves a large number of middle-income clients.

 “It’s a liquidity issue,” added Braxton, founder and CEO of advisory firm Financial Fountains. “If most of a person’s assets are in their home, they may be better off to keep paying it on a monthly basis.”

As with virtually every financial consideration, carrying or paying off a mortgage in retirement depends on a person’s circumstances. What are the terms of the mortgage? What are the other assets people have? What are their goals and cash-flow needs in retirement? What is their tolerance for risk?

Before addressing the issue of a potential mortgage payoff, Braxton advises people first determine whether they can and want to stay in the home during their retirement. Is the house located where they want to live — near their children, perhaps — and is it sustainable? Or, should they be downsizing their home in retirement? When that question is satisfied, then consider the mortgage.

There are no right and wrong answers as to whether you should pay off your mortgage with a lump-sum payment before you retire. Here are five key things to consider:

How do you feel about risk? Leaving aside emotion, the question of whether to pay off a mortgage comes down to whether the after-tax return you expect to earn on the money exceeds the after-tax cost of the mortgage payments.

While many current mortgages sport interest rates below 4 percent, that is still almost twice the not entirely risk-free rate of return on the 10-year Treasury bond. If you’re willing to take on more risk— likely in the form of stocks — carrying the mortgage could make sense. Keep in mind, however, that markets don’t always cooperate. “Unless you have enough money to handle sequence-of-return risk, be very careful,” said Braxton.

Where are the assets? If you’re a conservative person with most of your assets in bank accounts and certificates of deposit, paying off the mortgage is a no-brainer. You are paying out several times more in mortgage interest than you’re earning in the bank account. If the assets are in a taxable investment portfolio, the decision depends on whether you are earning more on the investments than you’re paying out on the mortgage and if you want to continue taking that risk.

Do not pay off mortgages with lump-sum distributions from tax-deferred 401(k) plans or IRAs. There is a 10 percent penalty for those younger than 59½ years old; the entire withdrawn amount is taxable as income; and your marginal tax rate will likely increase if the mortgage balance is substantial.

“When I show clients that they will need to withdraw $130,000 from their IRA to pay off a $100,000 mortgage, it’s pretty sobering,” said Rick Kahler, president of Kahler Financial Group.

The tax angle. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act marginally reduces the tax advantage of having a mortgage — cutting the interest deduction to payments on the first $750,000 in loan balance, as opposed to $1 million.

For most people who itemize their tax deductions, however, mortgage interest payments are still fully deductible, meaning the after-tax cost of those payments could be substantially less. An individual in the 25 percent tax bracket with a mortgage carrying a 4 percent interest rate is paying an effective after-tax rate of 3 percent.

Because the new tax bill nearly doubled the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals, mortgage interest payments, along with other deductible items such as medical costs and charitable donations, need to exceed that amount to make itemizing worthwhile. If you’re in a lower tax bracket, the benefit of keeping a mortgage is also less. Generally speaking, the higher your marginal tax bracket and the larger your mortgage interest payments (and deductions), the greater the tax benefit of keeping the mortgage.

Are you a saver? Retirement carries risks — increased medical costs being the most obvious — and the greater risk requires that people maintain a financial cushion to deal with potential outcomes. For people with large amounts of assets, the question of paying off a mortgage may have little impact on their financial security. For the rest of us, however, it has major consequences.

“I have clients who understand the logic of keeping a mortgage in retirement but who say they’ll sleep better at night if it’s paid off. I don’t argue with those clients.”-Rick Kahler, president of Kahler Financial Group

In most cases, those who use their financial assets to pay off mortgages will have to continue contributing to their investment portfolios to make up for the withdrawal. That’s not easy.

“There are a lot of people who have difficulty saving,” said Kahler. Monthly mortgage payments are typically baked into people’s budgets. The same discipline may be more difficult to summon when you need to beef up your diminished investment portfolio. “If people need their former monthly mortgage payments to be invested and not spent, I’ll recommend not paying off the mortgage,” said Kahler.

How important is it to you? For many people, owning their home outright and not having to make further payments on it in retirement gives them a very valuable sense of security — legitimate or not. Whatever the numbers underlying your financial situation, if continuing to carry a mortgage will be a big source of stress in retirement, pay it off.

“I have clients who understand the logic of keeping a mortgage in retirement but who say they’ll sleep better at night if it’s paid off,” said Kahler. “I don’t argue with those clients.”


Who Owns Florida Beaches? Private Land Owner Rights Can Clash With Public Beach Access….


For decades, Collier County’s beachfront in Southwest Florida has been a welcoming place.

Naples’ founding fathers ended the city’s east-west avenues at a street now buried under the sand. The extended avenues mean that, even today, each beach end has parking on every block. For a while, that was enough.

Who owns the beach in Collier County?

[This map shows beaches in Collier County. Any parcel of land shaded purple is public or government-owned land. Any parcel of land shaded orange is private land. Hover over the map to get more information]

But explosive growth soon made beach parking a big issue. City leaders threatened to start charging county residents for beach parking stickers. The county built the Vanderbilt Beach parking garage to help alleviate the coastal space strain.

So when the Ritz-Carlton first tried to mark off its beach south of the new garage for the exclusive use of hotel guests, the public fought back. It was Collier’s first realization that the beach might not be the publicly owned sandy park everyone believed they had an undisputed right to roam.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection was called in to make sure the line was drawn in the right place. During especially busy times, the Ritz would post a guard to shoo away visitors who weren’t hotel guests. The county and the Ritz settled into an uneasy understanding in which the hotel uses the entire length of its beach for guests  about 30 peak days a year and opens some of it to the public on other days.

Then one spring morning in 2010, visitors walked onto Vanderbilt Beach and found cones and signs marking off a part of the beach in front of the Moraya Bay condominium.


They overran County Commission chambers, demanding commissioners fight back. They did, voting to take whatever steps were needed, including going to court.

Moraya Bay eventually relented, removing the cones and the signs, and making court action moot. “It looks like a free country,” a 77-year-old Cape Cod woman observed as beachgoers spread their chairs and blankets over sand that had been off-limits the day before.

Moraya Bay developers argued they were simply trying to make the same use of its private beach as other Collier beach clubs, including the Port Royal Club, the Edgewater Beach Hotel, the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club, the Ritz-Carlton and La Playa.

After a new County Commission was seated this year, commissioners received emails from the Naples Park Association and beach access advocate Graham Ginsberg about Moraya Bay again marking off its beach.

“Collier County government has yet to provide a solution and fairness for the public use of our beaches,” Ginsberg wrote in one email.

County Attorney Jeff Klatzkow told commissioners this summer he could offer a public beach access law for their review. It would be limited to Vanderbilt Beach and based on the customary use doctrine and the $20 million in public money used to maintain the beach, he wrote.

But, he added, it also might not be worth the trouble unless more beach visitors come forward with stories of being wrongfully run off the beach.

“My concern is that such an ordinance will be controversial, will bring out both the private property groups as well as the public access groups, and may result in bad feelings among many,” Klatzkow wrote.

Residents of Lee County shared horror stories similar to beachfront owners in Walton County, said Dawn Koncikowski, long-time resident of Little Hickory Island.

“Since the early 2000s, I’ve had a ‘No Trespassing’ sign on the beach behind my house,” she said. “There were break-ins in people’s homes and property, and the police recommended to put up signs. I’m just protecting my private property rights.”

Source: Naples Daily News

Southwest Florida Airport Expansion

If you’ve ever struggled to cool your jets in a long security checkpoint line at Southwest Florida International, know there are airport expansion plans designed to ease your pain.

But it’s going to take four more years before the big relief comes.

Meantime, things could get worse. Analysis shows wait times could soar to more than two hours if passenger traffic soared beyond its current levels during peak hours, in the peak winter travel months.

The expansion will cost between $150 million and  $180 million, shift shops and restaurants to post-security spaces and enlarge the passenger terminal’s second floor.

Project design could begin this year and the work go out for bids the last half of 2019 –with construction starting in 2020 and completion targeted for 2022.

Lee County Port Authority also wants to update passenger check-in areas inside and outside the terminal, at an estimated cost between $7 million and $10 million.

The plans go to Lee airports’ citizen-advisers Feb. 20. County commissioners sitting as the port authority board will weigh-in on the design contract on March 8.

Also in the plan: a lounge for international travelers.

This all has to be done while operating airport business as usual.

To accomplish that, spots in the two high-ceilinged atriums would be outfitted for limited food and-beverage service, pre-security. And, the existing row of restaurants and retailers in the non-secured area would first be relocated to the concourses.

Because even more room is required for this super-checkpoint area, the walls on the second floor also would be bumped-out to expand the terminal further into the airfield side.

The main goal of this renovation: Slash passenger wait times at security screening checkpoints during peak hours in the peak season months – without overbuilding for reduced passenger demand during the rest of the year.

 Secondarily, port authority officials believe it will reduce the need for extra, in-season TSA staffing.

Also, they expect concession revenues will rise, because most shops and restaurants now in the pre-security area would relocate to beyond the checkpoints, where fliers spend more time and dollars.

Walt Justice, a health care consultant who flies from here on business, hasn’t endured the occasionally epic lines in February, March or early April, which might stretch from checkpoints into the atriums and around the corner, to the ticketing area.

That’s probably because Justice doesn’t need to depart between noon and 1 p.m., the hour identified as RSW’s year-round peak.

But he loved the idea of more food-and-beverage options, post-security.

He’s a Delta customer, and says choices on Concourse C are limited.

“I don’t want to eat and then go through the checkpoint. I want to go through security, eat … and then get on the plane.”

Port Authority numbers for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2017 show gross receipts for food and beverage sales averaged $1.11 per departing passenger from the pre-security concessions – and anywhere from $4.41 to $5.43 per outbound passenger on the concourses.

Non-food retailing averaged 98 cents per passenger land side, with averages ranging from $2.74 to $3.68 on the concourses.

The port authority gets a cut of the concessions revenues, which funds operating the airport.

Projects like the terminal expansion typically are funded through state and federal transportation department grants – and airport-earned revenues. No property tax dollars are involved.

Among U.S. airports, Southwest Florida Internationa encounters some of the biggest seasonal swings in passenger demand and air service.

In March, the airport has 125 percent more takeoffs and landings than in September, its slowest month.

By comparison, the airports in Orlando and Tampa have about a 30 percent change between season and non-season.

In preliminary studies, Atkins Global, an engineering firm hired to design the expansion, hypothesized about an April 1 in the future when departing passengers would increase by 23 percent or nearly 3,600 passengers over present levels, during the peak hour of noon to 1 p.m.

 If more security screening lanes aren’t created, Atkins Global’s analysis showed that extra passenger demand could bring wait times exceeding two hours in some lanes, during peak travel times in peak season.

And, even where the wait times weren’t that long, most lanes in most concourses would exceed TSA’s preferred wait times of no more than 20 minutes in a standard line and five minutes in a PreCheck line.

“That’s certainly not acceptable,” Mulder said.

Expanding to accommodate more screening lanes isn’t unusual. Many airports have done it or are planning it  – from Newark to Boston to Grand Rapids, said airport spokeswoman Victoria Moreland.

RSW will average 9 percent more airline seats year-over-year in January through March of this year.

More seats or capacity typically brings more passengers.

Although the expansion will be challenging, Mulder noted that even if everything comes together as planned, “we’ll have operational challenges for four more (tourist) seasons.”

Source: Naples Daily News


Toppled Trees are Saved at Wonder Gardens!

Hurricane Irma uprooted and severed the roots of hundreds if not thousands of trees throughout Southwest Florida this past September.  Landscapers have cleared  away almost all of the debris from the roads and yards to return Naples to its beautiful appearance that we all cherish.

A historical place in Bonita Springs, Wonder Gardens,  has dozens of trees dating back to the 1930’s and earlier. Some were saved and some sadly were put to rest.  A banyan tree that had been planted before World War II soared higher than the rest of the surrounding trees was luckily saved five weeks after Irma tore through the gardens. Young trees can be purchased and planted for $2,000 to $5,000, but would take decades to get to the size of any surviving trees.

The owner, Al O’Donnell, seems very optimistic. He says that the trees are known to grow back with little or no roots at all. “Wonder Gardens should return to its attractive appearance in about two years”, he said.   In a about five summers, you won’t even be able to notice what happened.   The job O’Donnell and his crew completed could have cost the nonprofit Wonder Gardens about $31,000.  O’Donnell said choosing to volunteer was easy.  “(The Wonder Gardens) is an icon for downtown,” O’Donnell said. “It was the right thing to do.”

Source: Naples Daily News