The BlackRock Group (BRG) has won the final round of the auction selling off the Naples City Zoo. With the decision comes a new round of accusations of backroom dealing among councilmen. An unnamed executive with Simon Malls, the competing bidder, accuses the Naples city council of practically "giving" the land to BlackRock. "They didn't want another mall competing with Coastland, which is partially owned by one of the chairmen of the city council. This is the last time Simon will ever attempt to invest in the city of Naples."
The next step is to decide to what do with the land. One thing is for sure, the Zoo will be closing it's doors. Rodney Stevens, the CEO of the BlackRock Group L.L.C., sat down with Naplesnews.com "For years the Zoo hasn't been able to compete for consumers' entertainment dollar. Animals are cute, but cute doesn't pay the bills." When asked what the land will be used for, "That is under consideration. Naples commercial real estate market is shattered, and being so close to a well respected entity such as Coastland Center Mall, commercial property doesn't make sense. But there is a strong need for residential. Say, apartments. We are looking at all options in that regard. Then, of course, there is the family entertainment option." Publicly, that is the option that Stevens prefers, already being involved in the family entertainment industry. "Viability is the issue. High speed rail connecting Miami, Southwest Florida, and Tampa and central Florida make things like large scale theme parks viable in today's market. Things like overbearing city restrictions and regulations make that viability a bit bleaker." Currently there is a height restriction of one hundred feet for 'amusement rides' in the city of Naples. Such restrictions would make it hard for a theme park to compete in today's competitive family entertainment industry. "Time will tell."
We leave you with some shots of closing day. A somber day for sure, but who knows what the future will bring!