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Ground finally broken for Gulf Star Marina on Fort Myers Beach

By Staff | Sep 12, 2018

Todd Carroll, owner of Carroll Properties, talks about the long-awaited Gulf Star Marina during the groundbreaking ceremony for the project Thursday. CHUCK BALLARO

Ground was broken on Gulf Star Marina at 708 Fisherman’s Wharf, a boat storage facility on Fort Myers Beach welcomed by area boaters.

Todd Carroll, owner of Carroll Properties, said the event was to celebrate something that has been a long time coming.

“I think we broke a record in Lee County for having an application in more than a decade ago. The last economic cycle brought us down and one thing after another happened,” Carroll said.

The Board of County Commissioners finally approved the project last year.

The facility promises to be what proponents say will be Southwest Florida’s first “smart marina” and the first to feature automated storage and retrieval (ASAR) technology that replaces the forklift.

The $10 million, 29,000-square-foot facility will be built with concrete walls to offer superior hurricane and fire protection, and its futuristic, state-of-the-art technology system offers rack-to-water vessel delivery in just seven minutes.

The A.S.A.R. system is similar to technology used by Mercedes, Ikea and other corporations to optimize storage space and reduce the risk for property damage, offiicals said.

Robert Brown, founder and president of GCM Contracting, said the technology will involve a stacker crane, which is used in automated warehouses.

“It looks more like a four-poster bed. It moves up and down at the same time. It’s much faster than the traditional forklift,” Brown said. “We can also stack boats two or three deep. We would have to leave some open spaces but we would have higher density.”

Once completed in June 2019, Gulf Star Marina will provide secure, dry storage for around 100 boats up to 40 feet in length. The facility will hold around 150, with new docks, a parking lot and, of course, Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille.

The marina will offer concierge services that include indoor valet parking, boat fueling, open spaces, a ship store, cleaning and maybe even a bait shop in the future.

Carroll announced they would officially begin to accept reservations for the barn, which he said has generated interest from dozens of people. He also said the facility would likely employ around a dozen people.

“The marina storage industry is a multi-billion-dollar business so to have this has a huge impact on the business community,” said Amy McQuagge, senior marketing manager for the Lee County Economic Development Office. “There are 87 million Americans who participate in recreational boating. There is clearly a need for this here in Lee County.”

Monthly rental prices for the boats will start at $20 per foot for smaller boats and go up to $26 per foot on those 40 feet and larger, according to the marina brochure.

Area boaters came to witness the event and saw themselves fascinated by the possibilities.

Annie Swartz had a boat where the Diversified Building now stands before bringing in to the old barn that was torn down for this project.

“I can’t wait to see what it looks like. I would consider putting my boat here because I love it and the people who work here,” Swartz said.