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Possibilities abound for Saks space; smaller stores sign on
 

The holidays — and shopping — are in full swing at the Bell Tower Shops, making it a prime time to update what’s happening at the south Fort Myers destination.

Bell Tower’s corporate policy prohibits disclosure of information related to occupancy and lease negotiations, but a walk around the main complex Wednesday revealed a handful of openings at some of the smaller spaces. That’s in addition to the anchor space recently vacated by Saks Fifth Avenue.

Gary Tasman, a commercial real estate expert who is a broker with Cushman & Wakefield, sees a big opportunity to do something creative in the former Saks space, calling it “phenomenal” real estate that could be used to revive the center.

“In all probability the space is going to be broken up, and it will probably be completely reconfigured,” he said. “It’s a core piece of the plaza. There’s a good chance it will be more entertainment or restaurant concept as opposed to retail. Part of that could be a teardown and ground-up rebuild.”

Part of a rebuild could involve a residential component, Tasman said, considering the category’s success at shopping areas such as Coconut Point in Estero and the Mercato in North Naples. That could attract Millennials and parttime residents who’d like to keep a condo there because of the central location.

Aside from the Saks space, “I don’t know that Fresh Market is the best concept today for that center, and I could seea Trader Joe’s there,” Tasman said. “That would breathe a lot better life in that center.”

The long-planned HaVen gastropub project sits on the opposite end from the former Saks location.

“We have resubmitted permits with some design modifications to the county and awaiting approvals to proceed with construction,” according to an email Thursday from partner Brad Cozza. “We will be happy to unveil the revised plans and conceptual drawings, once our county approvals are finalized.”

The county has two permits for HaVen: one for the outside of the building called a shell permit and another

See BELL TOWER, Page 2B

TOP:A woman holding a Chico's shopping bag walks toward the former Saks Fifth Avenue space Wednesday at the Bell Tower Shops.

PHOTOS BY CASEY LOGAN/USA TODAY NETWORK - FLORIDA

The long-planned HaVen gastropub, pictured Wednesday.

permit for the interior build out of the shell.

The shell permit expired in July and could have been reinstated at any time by a contractor visiting the permitting department and requesting it to be reopened, county spokeswoman Betsy Clayton said Friday. That has not happened, she said, while the other permit has been waiting for a contractor to pick it up since February.

As for other spaces, here’s a look at some stores that have opened over the past year: Anchored, a locally owned fashion boutique from the owners of The Pink Pineapple, opened in the first quarter. It features a nautical theme, with brands such as Southern Tide, Brighton, Mahi Gold, Gretchen Scott, Simply Southern, Hook and Tackle and Weekender.

“After opening The Pink Pineapple in 2014, we wanted to create a unique, trendy and fun shopping experience at the Bell Tower, and make Anchored a place that people love to come,” Jennifer Redish said. “The store features an upside down boat hanging from the ceiling with an opening in the wall to allow shoppers to conveniently walk back and forth between Anchored and Pink Pineapple.”

Scout & Molly’s will soon open its newest franchise location. The 1,135square-foot boutique will offer upscale designer women’s clothing as well as original designs. The store is one of many opening across the country over the next few months. It will be home to designers including Sita Murt, Amour Vert, Elan, Shilla and French Connection.

Scout & Molly’s was launched in 2002 in Raleigh, North Carolina. In 2014, the company started franchising and today there are more than 30 locations nationwide.

Trader Rick’s reopened its Bell Tower Shops location in March. The locally owned and operated store specializes in women’s clothing, handcrafted jewelry, aromatherapy products and gifts.

The store offers a fun, eclectic mix of products, including Out of the Fire lampglass jewelry made by owner Rick Sadler. The store has been at the Bell Tower Shops for 27 years, closing temporarily in August 2015 for an update.

“To have a mom and pop store in this day in age is very rare,” said Teresa Stabler, store manager. “We have seen a lot of positive changes at the Bell Tower Shops and we are part of that change as far as being able to redo the store and update it.”

Saratoga Sundress, a clothing boutique, opened its first Florida location at Bell Tower Shops last December.

Based in Saratoga Springs, New York, the boutique offers a wide selection of on-trend clothing, shoes and accessories for women and girls. It specializes in contemporary fashion.

“We strive to make it feel comfortable and personal, just like you’re shopping in your best friend’s closet,” said Amanda Ivers, buyer and manager. “We always want our customers to leave absolutely head-over-heels with their purchase.”

Connect with this reporter: email clogan@news-press.com and follow on Twitter @caseylo.

Attachments:
Saks_closure_could_signal_fresh_start_for_Bell_Tower_Shops.pdf

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