Immokalee Today Florida's 21st Century

Walmart Superstore to open in Immokalee - maybe by Fall 2015

Officials of the Barron Collier Companies and Walmart confirmed April 11 what speculation has suggested for months: a Walmart will anchor the northern edge of Immokalee and could open as early as Autumn 2015. 

The store will be a 150,000-square-foot SuperCenter with full service grocery and pharmacy. There is nothing in the current plan that suggests gasoline service will be available at the site, to be built on 25 acres at the northwest corner of Westclox Drive and State Road 29 across from the Isabel Collier Reid Medical Center campus.

Walmart officials said the store will bring to Immokalee between 300 and 350 new jobs, part-time and full time and pay an average of $12.99 per hour. They also said benefits will be included in the pay package for both part-time and full time employees. They did not spell out the benefits package. Assuming Collier County grants the necessary permits for the store's construction, building could begin as early as Fall 2014 and be completed within 12 months.  

Barron Collier Investments, a subdivision of the Barron Collier Companies, applied to Collier County's Growth Management Division, specifically its Planning and Zoning Department, for a zoning change that will allow the store's construction. Rumors had been rampant for months the store would be a Walmart. 

Specifically, the Barron Collier zoning change requested would expand across SR 29 a commercial district now on the east side of SR 29 to include the 25 acres north of Westclox.  


"Loop Road" route all but finally decided

When one day - still several years away - a road is built to carry heavy truck traffic away from Immokalee's downtown, it won't be too far away. 

It's a very safe bet, at this point in the process, the so-called "loop road" truck route alternative, will connect State with Road 29 at the southwest corner of the Immokalee Regional Airport and again just north of New Market Road. The alternatives for the route have been significant reduced and the most likely route will take the truck route through the commercial portion of New Market Road, as a widened roadway, jutting to the northeast just south of the residential area of New Market Road. The roadway would parallel New Market to the northeast of the residential section connecting once again to S.R. 29 north of New Market, north of Westclox Avenue. 

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) held a public workshop on the proposed road's alternative routes in Immokalee on April 3. If you're a digital subsriber to the Naples Daily News you can read coverage of the public workshop here

The Immokalee Community Redevelopment Agency's citizens advisory committee received an update on the project February 19th in its regular monthly session. 

The so-called, "loop road," to skirt Immokalee - or perhaps connect into its center - will be an essential trade route for the town and, especially, for the airport. 

A precise source of funding for the project has yet to be decided and its eventual construction will depend heavily on a list of roadway priorities established by the Collier County Metropolitan Planning Council, an inter-governmental advisory which advices Collier County commissioners on major transportation issues. 

The FDOT maintains a website about the proposed project and updates that website as needed.


Immokalee: a walkable community; safer cycling, walking

Making Immokalee a safer place for pedestrian and cyclists - as well as vehicles - is a goal of the Immokalee Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). 

By the official count, 42 pedestrians or cyclists were hit by cars along Immokalee's Main Street or First Street between 2005 and 2012. Three of those victims died. 

In an effort to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians in Immokalee, the CRA commissioned AIM Engineering to develop a crosswalk improvement study and plan.  

The study concentrated on the corridor running along Immokalee's Main Street, from 9th Street to First Street, and south along First Street to East Delaware Avenue. This corridor is by far the most heavily trafficked by pedestrians and cyclists. 

AIM Engineering presented its draft report to the CRA's citizens advisory council when it met March 19. The council will review the report and it's recommendations and a final report could be issued by May. 

Here, in full, is the draft report by AIM Engineering for public review. All comments are welcomed and encouraged: 

First Street Zocalo taking shape!

Construction is well underway and before long Immokaleans will have a beautiful new public gathering spot at the First Street Zocalo! 

Work began earlier this month and crews have been working feverishly molding and polishing the once-vacate lot at the corner of First Street and Main Street into a gem of which the entire community can be proud.

Together with a companion gathering spot at Main and 9th Street, the plazas serve as linchpins of the Immokalee Public Realm Plan which won the 2010 Award of Merit from the Florida Planning & Zoning Association.

Collier County Commissioners approved the purchase of the two lots at the corner of Immokalee's First Street and Main Street in 2012 and awarded the First Street Plaza design contract to Naples architect David Corban in January 2013. Surety Construction Company is building the plaza. 

In addition to a community gathering and celebration spot, the zocalo will also serve as a warm, new "Welcome" sign to Immokalee's visitors arriving from the south and east. 

Seminole Immokalee Casino hotel plans moving forward?

It may not be the grand palace once envisioned but after four quiet years it appears plans for a hotel at the Seminole Immokalee Casino are moving forward. 

According to the Naples Daily News, quoting Immokalee Water & Sewer District Executive Director Eva Dayo, ground could be broken on a 110-room hotel as early as next month. 

“They want to break ground on the hotel in April and finish in December,” Deyo told the Daily News. “They are also expanding the casino at the same time.”

Deyo knows this because the Seminole Tribe of Florida asked for and received $75,000 worth of new meters and water-sewer lines. Water for the casino has - mostly - been supplied by the Tribe's own water system since it opened 20 years ago. 

Fred Thomas, chairman of the water and sewer district, told the Daily News plans call for a four-story, 110-room hotel, possibly a Hard Rock Hotel since the Tribe owns and operates all the Hard Rock resorts and hotels world-wide. Hard Rock is a brand synonymous with "cool" and "trendy" and, yes, rock-n-roll. 

The casino expansion is also reported to include construction of a concert hall. 

Officially, the Tribe is not discussing any hotel plans publicly and told the Daily News plans were not yet completed. 

The Immokalee Seminole Casino is the top tourist attraction in Southwest Florida, drawing nearly 2 million visitors each year and posts over $2 billion in revenue each year

Immokalee was awash with excitment five years ago when plans were announced for a major resort-style hotel at the casino but the Great Recession and Florida politics put those plans on the shelf for a while. The Seminole Tribe of Florida is currently negotiating a new gambling pact with the State of Florida amid plenty of talk in the 2014 Session of the Florida Legislature about legalizing casino gambling on Miami Beach and other spots. 

Read the full piece in the Naples Daily News. Note: you will only be able to access the piece if you are a subscriber. 


Big crowd expected to support Immokalee big box store

WalmartA large crowd is expected March 19 to voice support for the construction of a big box store - rumored to be a Walmart - at the northern edge of the community. 

The Immokalee Community Redevelopment Agency's (CRA) citizens advisory committee is scheduled to give the store proposal an up-or-down vote when it meets in its regular monthly session March 19, 8:30 a.m. at CareerSource Southwest Florida, 750 South 5th Street. (Known locally as the One-Stop Shop.) 

From all indications, support for the store is overwelming in Immokalee. The Collier County Planning Commission is expected to formally take up the proposal in April. 

UPDATE: March 19...The CRA's citizens advisory panel gave its unanimous support for the store's construction in Immokalee. With that endorsement, however, came a plea for the developer, the county and the Florida Department of Transportation to ensure traffic flow in and out of the plaza is smooth, safe and a beneficial to the community. 

Collier County's Growth Mangement Division held a formal public information meeting on the proposal January 13 and over 500 Immokaleans showed up to voice support for the development. So many people, in fact, the room scheduled for the event could not contain them all and the meeting was moved to larger facilities.

Barron Collier Investments, a subdivision of the Barron Collier Companies, has applied to Collier County's Growth Management Division, specifically its Planning and Zoning Department, for a zoning change that will allow "a large format retailer" to be built on the corner of Westclox Road and State Road 29 at the northern edge of Immokalee across from New Market Road and just south of and across SR 29 from the Isabel Collier Reid Medical Center campus. 

The request is to expand across SR 29 a commercial district now on the east side of SR 29 to include nearly 25 acres north of Westclox for what is described as a 162,000 square foot large format retailer. 


Immokalee forum on transportation projects: March 10

Immokaleans will have the perfect chance to speak out on long-range transportation projects - including the so-called Loop Road - during a public workshop set for March 10. 

The 10 a.m. workshop will be held at the CareerSource Southwest Florida Service Center (the One-Stop Shop), 750 South 5th Street. 

The Collier County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and its executive director, Lucilla Ayer, will be on hand to discuss the county's Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) and projects within that will affect transportation in and around Immokalee over the next 20 years. 

The MPO is an advisory board of county and municipal elected leaders which plan and develop the county's transportation projects, both short term and long term. 

The citizens advisory committee of the Immokalee Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) will discuss at its April 11th meeting which Immokalee projects should remain in the long range plan, which should be eliminated, which should be funded and currently without funding and other transportation issues important to Immokalee and the network of roads leading into the community. 

"Please plan on attending this important meeting," said Bradley Muckel, interim executive director of the CRA. "This is Immokalee’s chance to begin to formulate a collective voice regarding the long-range plans for the transportation network in and around Immokalee."

The meeting is, of course, free and open to the public. Any questions about the forum can be directed to Muckel:


Facade Grant transforms Kountry Kitchen to new pizza spot!

Where once there was landmark Immokalee eatery, Abe's Kountry Kitchen, the popular spot is being transformed through an Immokalee CRA facade grant to Abe's Pizza & Wings! 

Located at the corner of Nixon Drive and New Market Road, Abe's became eligible for $20,000 in grant assistance from the CRA Facade Grant Program and made the transition that much easier. 

“The CRA grant funding is being used to cover the cost of a new roof, windows, doors, stucco, paint and architectural changes to the building’s façade," explained CRA Executive Director Bradley Muckel. 

The Immokalee CRA's Commercial Facade Improvement Program allows for the use of grant funds, in conjunction with private investments, for general improvements to the exterior of commercial structures located within the boundaries of the Immokalee Urban Designated Area. The intent of the program is to increase commercial occupancy rates and property values within the CRA while revitalizing the overall appearance of the Immokalee Urban Designated Area. 

Loop Road routes narrowing, still up for discussion

It appears to be a foregone conclusion that some day a new road will be built around - or through - Immokalee to carry heavy cargo & commercial traffic and connect with I-75 to the community's northwest and south. 

Where, exactly, that road will be built - the route it will take - remains up for discussion and debate. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) held a workshop in Immokalee January 23 to discuss the issues further and get more input from Immokaleans themselves. 

FDOT's consulting planners said additional public hearings on the project are scheduled through 2014 and will make another presentation February 19 to the Immokalee Community Redevelopment Agency's citizens advisory council. FDOT maintains a website about the proposed road
The so-called, "loop road," to skirt Immokalee - or perhaps connect into its center - will be an essential trade route for the town and, especially, for the Immokalee Regional Airport. But its precise route and location is a somewhat contentious issue and still very much a matter for discussion. Because of environmental, safety & business concerns, any eventual route will have trade-offs.

The route's proposed alternatives appear to narrowing to a path to just barely skirt the northeast hypotenuse of the Immokalee "triangle," just outside New Market Road connecting with State Road 29 near the Immokalee Airport to the south and again to the north at State Road 82. 

"There will be no (new road) to the west (of Immokalee) and nothing to the east," explained FDOT's Gwen Pipkin. 

The route may very well follow closely the example shown in the graphic above, with some modifications. 


Immokalee H.S. Beta Club makes history at state convention.

“BETA did it again!”  

Those were the words straight from Immokalee High School principal Ken Fairbanks as he announced another victorious year for the Immokalee High School (IHS) BETA Club after their participation in the 72nd Annual State of Florida BETA Club Convention, held January 18-19 in Orlando.  

The Convention’s theme this year was “Making History” and the IHS BETAs did just that with their largest delegation ever attending – 96 members strong.  The team brought home multiple State Championships and other honors.

As a group, the Immokalee Indians placed first in the state in the Character Skit, Group Talent, Banner, Scrapbook, and Philanthropy competitions.  The IHS BETAs also placed second in Campaign Skit and Service.

Several IHS students received additional honors and participated as part of the program throughout the convention program.

  • Jeffrey Flores – current Florida State BETA Vice President, conducted one of the general sessions and gave an inspiring speech titled “Life’s Wild Ride” 
  • Regine Francois – elected as the next Florida State BETA Secretary
  • Benny Valdez – gave the inspiration for the closing session
  • Shania Bogner – 1st in Ceramics
  • Brenton Duncan – 1st in Computer Graphics
  • Santana Cardenas – 2nd in Watercolor and Onsite Acrylics, and 3rd in both Digitally Enhanced Photography and Color Action Photography
  • Daniel Martinez – 2nd in Woodworking
  • Efrain Martinez – 3rd in Math
  • Lynecee Romelus – 3rd in Oratory
  • Efren Varela – 2nd in Mixed Media, Colored Pencil, and Onsite Colored Pencil
  • Emmanuel Vega – 2nd in Spanish

Based on their performance, the Immokalee BETA Club will represent Florida in various categories at the National BETA Convention to be held in June in Richmond, Virginia.  Club members will be working hard in the next few months to raise funds for their journey. 

To learn more or if you would like to help in any way, please contact the school at 377-1800.