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Downtown Bonita continues to grow with plans of a new food truck park

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Bonita Springs City Council
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The conceptual site plan for Rooftop at Riverside which is planned to open in Downtown Bonita Springs this year.

A new business is set to join the Downtown Bonita Springs community in late 2022 — Rooftop at Riverside, a food truck park.

Chris Magnus, a Southwest Florida resident for 30 years and co-developer of Rooftop at Riverside, saw creating this type of business as a way to support community growth in Downtown Bonita Springs.

“With what the city has done with Old 41, we saw an opportunity to give the city a heartbeat downtown with something that will bring entertainment and that will give our community something to look forward to,” said Magnus. “It’s something that will be fun for everybody.”

The food truck park, which will sit on less than a half-acre plot of land on the east side of Old 41 across from Riverside Park, is planned to hold eight food truck pads plus a two-story building for customers to sit and enjoy their food and order drinks at the air-conditioned rooftop bar. There will also be a 600-square-foot recreational space for families to bring children, which will include a mist wall for the hot Florida afternoons.

“For Bonita, this is unheard of,” said Bonita Springs Councilman Jesse Purdon.

“Our downtown used to be a trailer park that you didn’t want to hang out in. For it to be on the cusp of being such a beautiful, walkable and pedestrian friendly hub of activity, it’s just so great to see that it’s going that way and this project is a very vital step to get the entire thing moving.”

The Bonita Springs City Council and staff show great support for this the project, and the feedback from the community is also vastly positive.

“I was just overwhelmed with the public support we had during the neighborhood meetings,” said Magnus. “Everyone we talk to in the community keeps asking ‘when are you guys starting’ or ‘when are you guys breaking ground’ or when are you guys going to be open.”

Peggy Baker is co-owner of Chartreuse Craft Cocktail Lounge, located directly north of where the future food truck park will be built. She believes that this new addition to downtown will help the surrounding businesses thrive.

“I’ve always been of the opinion that the more businesses, the better it is for everybody,” said Baker. “It just brings more people to the area and is starting to develop what the downtown council had envisioned years ago when they started redoing the streets.”

Magnus agrees that his new business will be beneficial for other restaurants, especially for the food trucks he decides to host in the parcels.

“The really cool thing about food trucks is that it’s a great beginning business for people,” said Magnus. “Maybe we’ll see some of these food trucks really take off and want to build their own restaurants, and that is really exciting because we do need more restaurants in Bonita.”

Although Magnus is not yet taking applications for trucks that want to occupy Rooftop at Riverside, he has a general idea of the qualities he’d like to see in the trucks he chooses.

“We don’t want any overlap,” said Magnus.

“We don’t want to have two hamburger trucks, two barbeque trucks and two taco trucks. We want to have a mix of absolutely everything, so food trucks aren’t stepping on each other’s toes and everyone is doing something different. So, when the community comes in, they will have a lot of different choices instead of a lot of the same options.”

Purdon emphasizes how this project could be the start of what the city has been envisioning for the community for so many years.

“This is going to be the catalyst project that starts what is inevitably one of the most beautiful downtowns in Southwest Florida,” said Purdon.

“It’s something completely different than what we’ve ever had, and its going to be something really good for our community. We have so many young families and professionals, something like this is really going to give them options in Bonita that they generally don’t have.”

Peggy Baker agrees that this brand-new concept is going to encourage locals to stay close to home more than ever before.

“It’s definitely not the old-town Florida vibe, but that being said, I think that you have a lot of people in the community that just want to stay here and spend their money,” said Baker. “I think they’re going to be very happy to have the variety and choice.”

Magnus believes that with the power and support of the community, there’s nothing that will halt the dream of Rooftop at Riverside.

“We have such a tidal wave of support right now that I think any problem we encounter down the road, we will be able to handle,” said Magnus. “We are so close to bringing this to the community and I think once we are open, we are really going to see Old 41 take off.”

Groundbreaking is expected to occur in January.

This story was produced by Democracy Watch, a news service provided by Florida Gulf Coast University journalism students. The reporter can be reached at sjroesler9635@eagle.fgcu.edu.

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