Joseph Cranney, email@example.com; 239-213-60358:54 p.m. EDT September 27, 2016
A Naples real estate developer is planning a new downtown promenade on Naples Bay, with waterfront dining built over an underground parking garage with more than 300 spaces of free public parking.
The project offered by Naples Bay Center at the intersection of River Point Drive and U.S. 41, includes five restaurants with rooftop and outdoor dining overlooking the bay. The property’s nearly 2 acres of vacant land sit across the U.S. 41 bridge from the Hyatt House.
An outdoor plaza at the front of the project that could include food vendors and other kiosks would connect to the bay via a boardwalk that wraps around the property.
The Promenade on Fifth will be reviewed by the city’s design board Wednesday. The project’s parking, plaza and boardwalk will be open to the public, said Harry Zea, of Pinnacle Property Management, the project’s developer.
“It’s set up exactly for people to just go and chill,” Zea said. “We need a public gathering place that is not in the middle of a driving street.”
Zea, who lives in Naples, said residents are “starving” for a casual nighttime experience as an alternative to the upscale shopping and dining districts on Third Street South and Fifth Avenue South.
“I like Fifth and Third, but if you want to just go and hang, there’s no place to go,” Zea said.
Mayor Bill Barnett said he reviewed the project's preliminary plans in the spring and found the "ample" parking and waterfront dining concepts to be "certainly attractive."
"I did not see any downsides to it," he said.
The Promenade's site plans haven't yet been reviewed by the city's planning department, but Zea said the project doesn't request any deviations from the city's code and won't require approval from the City Council.
The promenade’s plans for two floors of underground parking include 310 spaces.
“We are not going to stop people from parking there,” Zea said. “You park in it first-come, first-serve.”
Zea said he’s still in talks with businesses to occupy the five single-story restaurants that will provide more than 12,000 square feet of rooftop and outdoor dining.
“We’re going to bring in something where you can go to a different restaurant every night,” he said. “You can go to a seafood restaurant one night and a steakhouse another night — something different from what we have now.”
Last December two downtown property owners sued local developer Phil McCabe for his plans to build a floor of underground parking for the first time below a three-story building on Fifth Avenue. McCabe’s plans violated a provision of the city charter that limits commercial buildings to three floors, the lawsuit claimed.
John Lehmann, head of the Old Naples Association whose members have criticized McCabe's project, said he hadn't reviewed Zea's plans and declined to comment on them.
Zea said the Promenade was designed at three floors to avoid controversy.
“You’re not going to please everybody,” said Zea, who received council approval in June for another commercial redevelopment near Crayton Cove. “I’m trying to develop things that will be an asset to the community and make me feel good about myself when it’s all said and done.”
Zea is also offering to build an extra-wide sidewalk along the northern edge of the property to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians from Fifth Avenue or the nearby Naples Bay Resort.
He said the plans for his public parking could alleviate traffic flowing into downtown from the east during tourist season.
“We think it’s going to relieve between 5 and 15 percent of the bottleneck of the season,” Zea said.
“We’re going to make a lot of money. We’re not philanthropists. But we think there’s a synergy between developers who want to make money and can better the community.”