There’s something fresh and exciting taking place just south of the Florida Gulf Coast University campus. This month, students are moving into The Residences at University Village, a hip, new community specifically designed with FGCU in mind. However, this mixed-use development also offers plenty for Estero residents at the University Village Shops, especially in the area of casual dining.
Noting the university’s continued growth, Miromar Development Corporation stepped in to create this unique project.
“The concept was to address what we saw as development that would be useful and appreciated by our neighbors in the area,” says Margaret Antonier, president, CEO and founder of Miromar Development. “We decided to add student housing with the intent to provide a much-needed south access road leading to the university campus.”
There are 588 new units for student rentals at The Residences. To say there’s excitement around this new housing option would be an understatement. Every unit was pre-leased months before construction was completed. Apartments feature full kitchens, dining areas and private laundry rooms. Add to that a massive, state-of-the-art clubhouse, a resort-style swimming pool, a beach volleyball court, a fire pit, a fitness center, a game room that includes a pool table and arcade, a study lounge with computers, and a community room with a full kitchen. Kind of makes you want to go back to college, right?
FGCU has certainly taken notice. “We are delighted (students) and our employees can enjoy the dining, fitness and retail opportunities at our neighboring University Village by Miromar,” states Susan Evans, Vice President and Chief of Staff at the university. “There also will be employment opportunities for our students at University Village, offering close proximity to the campus for a convenient study-work lifestyle.”
The University Village Shops are a cornucopia of restaurants and stores that meet several needs and wants. Casual dining eateries include:
- Thai Udon Café
- Mellow Mushroom (pizza)
- Tacos & Tequila Cantina
- KC American Bistro
- Smoothie King
- The Shaved Ice Bar
- Blue Bistro Coffee
- Poke Fusion
- Frutta Bowls
Service-oriented businesses include several catering to fitness and beauty:
- Vanti Nails & Spa
- Yoga Lab
- F45 Training
That’s just the start. Numerous other restaurants and shops are on the way for this 70,000-square-foot shopping center. Additionally, there is a future Phase Two that would include the aforementioned south access road to FGCU and possibly a grocery store.
Estero Life Magazine caught up with a couple business owners who are eagerly opening at University Village.
Hy Brownstein, longtime New Yorker and owner of The Shaved Ice Bar, was first exposed to the area when he accompanied his son on a campus tour of FGCU. He immediately fell in love with the area.
“Shaved ice was in my blood on the boardwalks up north…ate it all the time growing up,” says Brownstein.
Aside from the 40 natural flavors of shaved ice at his new place, he boasts ice cream, nitro coffee, theme nights, and even a wireless cell phone charging area. He’s eagerly welcoming FGCU students as they come back to school for fall classes.
“I’ve already had lines out the door on a Tuesday out of season,” says Brownstein.
Another shop owner, Lynn Foley, of Vanti Nails and Spa, hails from Massachusetts and is eager to provide several services to students and to the Estero community. She opened the salon mid-May and says she loves the location. Foley anticipates students will come in for pampering after a “rough week of rigorous exams.”
Since the businesses in University Village are diverse and unique, there won’t be a fight for competition, predicts Brownstein, but rather a communal sense of working together.
“We all want each other to succeed,” he says. “The more places that open up here will make this a complete service and dining center. It’s not competitive; the businesses complement each other.”
And even though Foley and Brownstein come from large, Northeast metropolises, they’ve already adopted the “Estero” philosophy.
“I’ve learned a tremendous amount about Estero. It is a community, a real community — there are families here,” says Brownstein.
Foley, who has visited regularly for the past 10 years, adds, “I am planning for my future and retirement in Fort Myers. I love it here.”
University Village Shops is sure to be a highly visited destination. There’s also some interesting entertainment options popping up in nearby Miromar Outlets. The outlet mall recently revamped its play area and added a rock climbing wall for all ages. Another new shop called “Amazing Things” offers a “5-D” theatre experience with a contemporary, 16-seat micro-theater which features short films.
Immersive technology brings the audience into the film with 3-D viewing, moving seats and effects like fog, bubbles, wind and lights. Movie themes range from short roller coaster simulations, to mid-length space adventures, to longer nature documentaries. There’s also a collectibles gallery that houses the actual shoes Michael Jackson moonwalked in, an American flag signed by all 12 men who walked on the moon, a handwritten and signed pardon from President Lincoln, an original drawing by Walt Disney himself, and more.
With unique shops and new, hip eateries, Miromar Development Corp. is staying on top of retail trends. As malls across America struggle to remain competitive in the face of online shopping, Miromar Outlets and the new University Village Shops seem destined to thrive, thanks to forward-thinking development — and a convenient location right next to a thriving Florida Gulf Coast University!