Ocala's Restaurant Row Sees Resurgence after Recession

Over the years College Road in Ocala, or State Road 200, has welcomed about 100 chain and independent restaurants and up-and-coming brands in the food-service industry, including plenty of eateries both big and small. With plenty of history, this unique road has seen a new revival in recent years.

First Watch, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panda Express, PDQ and now Freddy’s are all located on College Road. Amrit Palace Indian Cuisine moved into a larger location. Bob Evans was rebuilt. There is a “pending” sign in front of Guadalahara Mexican. On the west side, McDonald’s, Tijuana Flats and Gator Dockside are neighbors to Cracker Barrel and Steak ‘n Shake.

Al DiFeo, who closed his own College Road pizzeria Abio’s and spent 34 years of business on the eastern edge of Restaurant Row, said a big night on the town either began or ended with a visit to Restaurant Row. “It was amazing, a lot of variety and things to do,” he said.

As the recession recedes, Restaurant Row sees a revival, and the economy is strengthening. Restaurant Row provides the perfect location with interstate proximity and a strong mix of retail and family-friendly establishments.  “We’ve seen a tremendous resurgence in the past five years,” said Bartow McDonald, managing director of Sperry Van Ness, which specializes in commercial properties. “There’s a lot of activity, both among users and investors.”

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Nick Banks

Nick created Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group in 2002 and spent the first eight years developing and acquiring office and retail projects in South Florida as well as North Central Florida. In 2010 the focus of the firm was shifted to primarily serve third party clients and perform brokerage, property management and mortgage banking functions. Nick has personally developed and acquired nearly 200,000 square feet of office and retail properties in markets throughout Florida. Prior to founding Front Street, Nick was the Director of Finance and Dispositions for Stiles Corporation in Fort Lauderdale where he financed and sold over $500 million in commercial real estate. Before joining Stiles, Nick was an Associate Director at GE Capital Real Estate where he sourced over $200 million in financing throughout Florida. Nick is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Finance and a concentration in Real Estate. He serves as a board member and current vice-chair for the United Way of North Central Florida where he also chairs the Development Committee. Nick is actively involved with the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce where he serves as a board member and committee member for the Council for Economic Outreach. He is also a recent graduate of Leadership Gainesville which is a year long leadership program hosted by the Chamber. He is a member of Grace United Methodist Church where he has served as finance chair and as a member of the leadership council. Nick serves as an advisory board member of the University of Florida Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies. Nick was recently named chair of the Gainesville committee for the North Florida chapter of Urban Land Institute (ULI). He is a licensed real estate broker in the State of Florida and is a long time member of the International Council of Shopping Centers.

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