Lisa Conley, firstname.lastname@example.org; 239-213-5308Published 12:28 p.m. ET April 11, 2018 | Updated 5:55 p.m. ET April 11, 2018
The Naples Planning Advisory Board has approved the Old Naples Hotel for Third Street South.
The planned four-star hotel would replace the long-vacant Third Street Plaza, often described as an eyesore in the otherwise bustling Third Street South shopping and dining district in downtown Naples.
The project, approved unanimously by the city’s design review board in May 2017, has been scaled back to address neighborhood concerns about its size.
The planning board approved the project 4-3. Board members James Melican, Chae Dupont and John Cross dissented, saying they could not support the hotel's deviations from city codes.
The project is scheduled to go before the City Council for a final decision May 16.
If approved, construction could start in May 2019, with hopes for a soft opening by Thanksgiving 2020, before the January peak of the busy tourist season.
Some residents still think the hotel would be too large for the area.
But others have commended the developers for listening to residents and making changes to the project.
"We cannot set them up for failure" by asking them to reduce the size even further, said Karen Larson, who lives across the street from the site. "I am concerned if they don't get approved, who's going to be the next developer that's going to come forward?"
George Buonocore Jr., owner of The Paper Merchant nearby on 13th Avenue South, also expressed support for the hotel and the business he said it will bring to the area.
“This hotel will be the saving grace of Third Street," he said. "The merchants are dying in the summer and rents are going up. We need this hotel."
The hotel also will improve the area's aesthetics, said Robert Langley, owner and CEO of Langley Properties Co.
"I think it's done perfectly," he told planning board members. "If this was my deal and I was in your place, why would you not do it? I can think of 30 reasons to do it and no reasons not to do it. It's kind of a no-brainer."
The new plan shows 109 hotel rooms, down from the original 118. The smaller footprint would allow for the expansion of a courtyard with gardens. The pool still would go on the roof, leaving room for a larger courtyard.
With the changes, the project would have 34,500 square feet of usable open space, representing more than 37 percent of the land it will sit on.
Additionally, the new plan shows two retail shops, spanning about 3,800 square feet. Three stores were in the initial design.
The project would have a 930-square-foot indoor cafe with 2,800 square feet of outdoor dining, as well as a 1,500-square-foot spa, both open to the public. A corner sundry shop would be designed for hotel guests.
Plans also include a valet-only garage with 124 parking spaces, which would be available free to the hotel's guests and retail customers.
The land is zoned for commercial use, but the developers would need approval for a 7-foot increase in height to accommodate the rooftop pool and a cupola. They also would need approval for the amount of lot coverage required to fit a bank of hotel rooms at the back of the property.
Furthermore, the developers would need city approval to implement a "shared parking plan." According to the city's code, mixed-use buildings must provide the same amount of parking that would be required if each use was located separately. In contrast, a shared parking plan calculates the parking need based on the building as a whole.
Planning board Vice Chairman David Feight had some concerns about the parking, noting that following the code would result in about 50 more spaces.
“We notoriously underestimate parking, which is why we have problems both on Fifth Avenue and Third Street. You’re content that 124 will get the job done?” he asked city staff.
City staff said yes and added that Hyatt House and Naples Bay Resort both use shared parking plans and there have been no issues.
The developers also asked for the OK to receive morning deliveries of linens, retail goods and produce at the front of the hotel six days a week, instead of using access off Gordon Drive, which is more congested and closer to homes.