On the last Saturday of February, as a result of posters placed in strategic places on the island, there was a huge turnout to listen to the plans that John Rogers and his partners had in store for changes on the Isles of Capri. John is the former owner, with his wife, Alex Alexander, of the hugely successful Blue Heron restaurant and has lived on Isles of Capri for 21 years, more than most in the audience. To be sure, John Rogers is a businessman, and a savvy one.
Residents and their friends walked, drove, biked and golf-carted to the event on Saturday morning, most anxious to be reassured that their peace and quality of life would not decline and a degree of curiosity about what was in the planning phases despite the rumors. Yes, in every community there are the rumors, mostly with no substantive data.
It was excellent judgement to schedule an informative meeting to assuage the rumors and rising anxiety about traffic issues, home security, impact on neighbors, crowded boating lanes, late night hours and more.
John Rogers had huge schematics of the plans in several locations on the property so many people could access them and they did. Most, like me, weren’t sure exactly what they were looking at, but he tried to explain verbally what the plans were. Frankly, I thought it was an ambitious plan, but as the sections of the plan were explained, it made more sense.
The project, to me, took into account the following; fun and opportunities for residents and visitors, (I’ll get to the specifics of those in a bit), safety, music, 116 slips and dockage for charters, fishing boats and individual visitors to the island; where gas will be sold locally, nine personally owned stationary food trucks, a dance floor and music area, picnic tables outside and second floor access to balconies for eating and drinking, generous restrooms inside the building on the ground level, a large wall on the north side for showing movies during holiday celebrations (or possibly for family rentals?) oh, and get this, a special safe play area for kids, parents or grandparents to interact safely and have fun outside…in other words, more resources than Celebration Park on Bayshore, not that there’s anything wrong with Celebration Park. In fact if you haven’t tried it yet, be sure and get the lobster rolls and then head down to the bar area for a cocktail or beer to accompany your lunch.
Getting back to the play area, John envisions this with sand, some fun games, and a place for children to let off some steam in view of their parents and grandparents or all play together.
There were lots of questions brought up by the participants and John answered all tactfully and with information. The biggest concern t was about the traffic issues. John stated that he and his partners had purchased a section of the large inner parcel that could be used for parking and they were hopeful that the center parcel could be reconfigured for better access and parking, but it wasn’t just the parking issue.
Concerns from Tarpon Village residents were focused on noise, traffic, litter, whether there would be a wall or fence between them and the project and the hours the venue would be open. John addressed the concerns. There would be adequate parking both on the property and possibly in the newly purchased land in the center of the island; hours would be 10am to 10pm with possibly a food truck that would serve coffee and breakfast to those early walkers, runners, and bikers (and there are many) who’d like to stop for a breather and visit with friends before finishing their route.
One of the biggest concerns came from a few Capri Community Church attendees who said that after church let out, they had to wait through two light changes even now, due to the traffic, before heading out on Collier Blvd. Although there were some in the audience that countered that they had to wait through four light changes at intersections in Naples, but the delay at this particular light was particularly bothersome to the people that spoke up. John said he would see if there was a solution. Like this conundrum, John seemed committed to solve concerns.
Time will tell. There are permits already issued, according to John, and more are on the path to change the way of life that Capri residents savor. The days of walking, running, biking, playing bocce, fishing, boating, partying could all be changed, improved or maybe not. Can we exist with progress? Can we be changeable, flexible, and faced with change, meet it in the middle and decide on a mutual solution?
One of the things that John made plain in his reveal of the proposed changes is that, no matter what you may think, there are more changes and building coming.
So, what do we do as a community? Work together, share ideas and compromise or fight a losing battle that still changes things in the end? I personally don’t know. But it’s a good sign that John Rogers is willing to share information and listen and, hopefully, his partners will follow this lead.
Watch for more information on the Isles of Capri development in upcoming editions of Coastal Breeze News.