ISLAMORADA -- Ocean Gardens, a nautical gift shop that opened in central Upper Matecumbe Key just a year ago, has submitted an expansion proposal to the Islamorada Planning Department.
"We just want more selection," said Phil Sena, co-owner of the Mile Marker 82.2 store. "We are going to do it with great pace. I hope the people in Islamorada and the Keys enjoy it. They should be proud of it, because we desperately need to clean up our highway frontage."
Sena plans to add 1,800 square feet to the existing Ocean Garden building, nearly doubling its size. In addition, he and co-owner/brother Lou are asking the village for approval to build a new two-story, 3,660-square-foot store on the property they own immediately to the south of Ocean Gardens.
Ocean Gardens submitted the plans on Nov. 9 and, barring an objection from surrounding property owners, could receive formal approval from the Planning Department without going before the Village Council.
Planners will likely complete their review of the proposal in the next month, Senior Planner Kevin Bond said.
Sena said the increased floor space will enable Ocean Gardens to feature plenty of home décor items, including furniture and wall art, alongside its selection of corals, seashells and other marine memorabilia and artifacts.
But the exterior designs are likely to draw at least as much attention as the new merchandise. The existing Ocean Gardens building, with its high ceilings and glass-laden front faÃßade, has been a noteworthy addition to the Upper Matecumbe corridor. David Osborn, designer of the newly proposed building, said it will have similar features. Moreover, the expanded Ocean Gardens complex will be landscaped with boardwalks, ponds, waterfalls and bridges. The paths will both connect the buildings and lead customers to some of the store's larger marine memorabilia, such as old anchors, a cannon and statues.
"Just to make it feel more like a village than a strip mall," Osborn said.
Sena said he's going for a look similar to that of The Falls shopping mall in south Miami-Dade. He added that this Ocean Gardens expansion isn't the last he hopes to do. Phase 3 of the complex will feature a small fish market, selling only fresh local seafood.
He hopes to complete the initial expansion before the end of 2013.