Northern Exposure

By Hannah Wallace November 30, 2004

Hidden behind the historic red brick Binz building on Orange Avenue, just north of 10th Street, is a nondescript 15,000-square-foot metal warehouse that has mostly been used for storage for the past few years. That's about to change. Jim Robison, the owner of both the Binz building (headquarters for the interior design firm JKL Design Group) and the warehouse, is spending $300,000 to renovate the space into a one-stop shopping center for construction and home design products for home owners and design professionals.

Called Unlimited Resource, the facility will offer 120 mini spaces for vendors and is slated to open in February. Robison, a general contractor and developer who does business using the name Level One Inc., will rent space in the design/information center for $320 a month for spaces ranging from 75 to 110 square feet, and will employ a staff of four. "The concept is for affordability for vendors," he says. "It gives you the showroom without the expense and personnel overhead."

He hopes to attract vendors from Tampa to Naples, who will showcase furniture, antiques and home design products. "You can have doors and windows, kitchen things, anything from water heating systems on down," he says. Robison plans to set aside space for local artists to display their wares although he hasn't worked out lease options and prices. He'll offer a la carte storage and shipping for all vendors on site, so clients who order large pieces from out of state will be able to pick them up at the facility. He plans to take no commissions from sales.

Unlimited Resource will include a lounge area that will offer free wireless Internet access to customers, who want to learn more about vendors' products and services from company Web sites. Visitors to a furniture or antiques booth, for example, might check a vendor's site to learn more about additional color options for a particular piece.

Robison is optimistic about filling the design center. "I expect to rent everything before it's even built," he says. "It's such an affordable venue."

Although he's self-funded this venture and hasn't been involved with any group efforts to reinvent the area north of downtown, Robison says his project will be an economic boon to the newly rejuvenated Orange Avenue/10th Street area.

"This part of town is high-traffic, but it's people going north to University [Blvd.] on their way home," he says. This project will give people a reason to stop and spend money in the area. "Economically, this will have a more positive impact than just the pass-through traffic we get now," he says.

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