The project features eight food truck pads and a two-story bar.
Project: Rooftop at Riverside
Location: Bonita Springs
Cost: $3 million
Size: Approximately 19,500 square feet
Design-build contractor: Randy Johns from Phoenix Associates of Florida, Naples
A new food truck park is coming to Bonita Springs by someone looking to turn Old 41 into a lively road again.
When the city of Bonita Springs put out a request for proposal on a property on Old 41 in October 2019, Chris Magnus jumped at the opportunity to bring a food truck park to the area. Magnus, with a background in real estate and property management/development, is an owner of the project.
“When the city did this RFP, we said, ‘that’s the spot,’” he says. The future Rooftop at Riverside is at 27333 Old 41 Road. Construction kicked off July 2022.
In addition to eight food truck pads, a two-story bar with a view of the Bonita Springs Bandshell at Riverside Park is being built. The bar will feature a patio on the second floor that will provide some coverage over the sidewalk. Each food truck will have access to its own water, sewer, electric and natural gas hookup.
“The idea is that when someone walks into the park, you walk in through a covered pergola or you can walk right in through the bar and you’d be able to see which truck is where and get an idea for what you feel like eating that day,” Magnus says.
As the project, which Magnus is developing under Rooftop at Riverside LLC, will not own the food trucks, he’s currently in the process of accepting applications for food truck vendors. The goal is to make a selection by Dec. 1. Each food truck will be issued a license to operate at the park to help mitigate some of the costs Magnus is paying, such as real estate taxes, insurance,, power, lighting and maintenance.
If a food truck park sounds familiar, it’s because this one is modeled after an established one in Naples — Celebration Park. Magnus says that became the inspiration for this project after speaking with owner Rebecca Maddox.
“We’re able to take that concept and apply it to this area,” he says. “Use what we know of Rebecca’s project to make our project something that flows really smoothly.”
The developer watched what Maddox’s project did for the community in Naples, especially its impact on Bayshore Drive. “It was very similar to Old 41,” he says. “Now it’s a beautiful corridor. You’ve got all kinds of new businesses flourishing. We think that we’re going to see that repeat here in Bonita Springs.”
More than one entrepreneur is getting an opportunity with this project.
“It’s such a cool concept when you have a master plan with the bar and food truck park operating as one business and then seven to eight trucks operating their own business in the same area,” Magnus says. “So we’ve really got eight (or) nine entrepreneurs out here all working together.”
Another goal? Deliver a renewed interest in investing along Old 41 with more restaurants and entertainment venues.
“Right now, you kind of (just) drive through Old 41. It’s a drive-thru road,” Magnus says. “It’s how you get from A to B. But we want to make Old 41 a destination place.”
That’s why the bar will feature drinks using local citruses and flavors. Currently, Magnus is working with a bar consultant to develop the drinks, but he knows the theme of the bar will tie in specific parts of the city’s history.
“We’ll have drinks named after different events and things that have happened in our community because Bonita Springs has a really rich history,” he says, in particular noting the Wonder Gardens and the city being the birthplace of the swamp buggy.
Standing out from the crowd seems to be a theme for Rooftop at Riverside. In addition to finding operators with clean trucks, who use the best ingredients and have fun personalities, Magnus is looking for variety.
“We don’t want any overlap,” he says. “We don’t want to do two hamburger trucks. We want to make it so these trucks have the ability to keep their menus fresh and exciting.”
For the moment, it looks as if the project is going to stay within budget, or at least close to it.
But it wouldn’t be a true construction story without some of the challenges facing the industry, namely material shortages and being able to find labor. Of course, Hurricane Ian didn’t help either.
Luckily, Magnus was thinking ahead. He pre-ordered as much as he could, which in the end saved him a bit of money. He was able to order the bar equipment, ice machines and a walk-in cooler.
“We’ve seen the difficulties and obstacles ahead of us (so) we tried to preorder and get everything as early as we can to help overcome some of those obstacles that we all face at this time,” he says.
The project also hit a snag trying to figure out how to get utilities to the property. But thanks to city staff and Bonita Springs Utilities, that issue was resolved quickly. Approval from city officials, which could be an obstacle for anything new in any jurisdiction, was, pleasantly, not a hard task, as most of the votes were 7-0. “With a different city, staff and council," Magnus says, "this project really could have stalled and been a problem."