HaVen restaurant and lounge — the Miami based gastro-lounge — started demolition to expand into the Fort Myers Bell Tower Shops after leasing space for two years.
"This project has evolved so much," said Brad Cozza, a partner of HaVen Fort Myers. "When we originally signed the lease two years ago, we were going in a completely different direction."
Originally only taking over the former Johnny Rockets and Taste of New York units, Cozza and HaVen Corporate decided to expand into the Cheshire Cat toy store in order to receive the necessary approval to build vertically and create a rooftop lounge.
"It was at least a year in the making just to receive the necessary approvals from the county to give us the ultimate space we're looking for," Cozza said.
HaVen will be 14,000 square feet and have the capacity to hold more than a thousand people.
When it opens in 2016, the unit will feature a panoramic video projection system, custom lighting, five bars and liquid-nitrogen ice cream presented in a DJ booth.
"Haven Miami is know for its fantastic technology and award-winning food," Cozza said. "We believe this concept is ready to go to other emerging markets. And it was advantageous for us to build something that's a little more centrally located around Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Bonita and Estero."
HaVen Fort Myers projects to be open for brunch, lunch and dinner, as well as late night entertainment.
"With the two separate floors, we can have two different concepts going on in one night," Cozza said. "As of right now, we will like to diversify our entertainment —having live music upstairs and probably a DJ downstairs.
"Everything we do for the preconstruction isn't going to be rushed," Cozza said. "It's going to be thoughtful and done right. We just want to make sure we open up right."
As the partners hope to impress guests with HaVen's new technology, the wow-factor will come from executive chef Todd Erikson's eclectic, regional American cuisine.
"I'm calling this menu familiar but different," Erikson said. "When you read the menu, you'll recognize everything, but there will be my spin on presentation and ingredients."
With a year until opening, Erikson is already beginning to develop relationships with local purveyors to supply his products.
Items on the HaVen Miami's menu that will be featured in Fort Myers will be the Crackle-Pop sushi roll, Erikson's version of a spicy tuna roll with Rice Krispies instead of tempura flakes; The Fever, a signature lychee martini; and the Duck-Duck-Quail Burger, an in-house ground duck patty served with foie gras butter and topped with a sunny side up quail egg.
"We're also going to feature a lot of things that are very familiar, such as chicken and waffle, and spaghetti, but with our fun spin," Erikson said. "Things that are normally considered mundane items are really elevated in my hands and my staff's. You're going to recognize stuff and you're going to love it."