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The City of Naples Planning Advisory Board voted Wednesday in favor of the site plan for the proposed First Avenue South downtown public parking garage. The three-story, four-level garage is planned for the south side of First Avenue and west of Goodlette-Frank Road, next to the planned Naples Square development.

Since the approval of Naples Square in 2013, plans for the surrounding area have been amended multiple times, with the public parking garage agreement created between the city and future $60 million Gulfshore Playhouse venue in 2021. In January 2023, the Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board recommended the budget for the garage be increased from $9 million to $12 million.  

Plans for the parking garage include 366 parking spaces, with 105 spaces on the top floor of the garage reserved for Gulfshore Playhouse valet during dedicated showtime hours. There will be two vehicle entrances, 12th Street South and First Avenue South. The southeast corner of the second level will house a covered pocket park. 

“Dramatic LED lighting will complement the vibe and energy and vision for this area, given the development of the Gulfshore Playhouse and the existing and future retail, restaurant and residential developments,” said Dan Summers, principal architect with BSSW Architects.  

For landscape, there will be a focus on wind-resilient plantings that are mostly native to Collier County, such as the native sabal palms. Bamboo and canopy trees will also be planted to make the garage less visible. 

“As we all know, wind resilience is of top of mind these days, and the native sabal palm has been used … along the street leading to the Naples Pier, which was done in the mid-‘90s. Those sabal palms have withstood the ravages of many a storm while providing shade for the millions of people who go back and forth on that street,” landscape architect Ellin Goetz said. 

Christopher Benitez, transportation engineer with Stantec Consulting, provided the board with a traffic study relating to the project, which involved estimating potential traffic volumes for the garage and conducting a turn-lane analysis. 

Benitez reutilized an analysis conducted in 2021 for the Naples Square development to determine traffic volumes in 2027. The turn-lane analysis was based on the Collier County Transportation Development Guidebook, and determined left and right turn lanes are warranted for 12th Street South, while a left turn lane is needed for First Avenue.  

Benetiz didn’t recommend widening the two-lane roadways. 

“Based off of the area, we feel that these roadways are better served to be low-speed roadways. When you introduce a turn lane, it does allow for higher speeds on the road,” Benitez said. “That could contract the potential pedestrian nature of that area with the different land uses.”  

Planning Advisory Board Chair Bruce Selfon said the larger traffic study the city is negotiating with Fort Myers-based David Plummer & Associates should be used rather than the Naples Square study. He said there will be a need for additional turn lanes with the amount of traffic to be brought by Gulfshore Playhouse, considering the county refused to place a traffic light at the First Avenue South-Goodlette-Frank Road intersection.  

City Traffic Engineer Alison Bickett said conducting a traffic study for a parking garage to determine whether to add lanes is unique because garages aren’t final destinations.  

“You’re not just going to go to a parking garage to use a parking garage. You’re going there to park, but you’re being pulled there for some other reason,” Bickett said.  

She said adding turning lanes would be beneficial but difficult since the roads are county owned.  

Vice Chair John Cross disagreed, arguing the garage will enable more intense use in the community and cause an increase in trips.  

“The stuff that we are doing is creating traffic problems that we seem unable to solve in a timely fashion, and yet, we’re continuing on that path, and we’re continuing to approve things that create problematical traffic situations, which weren’t thought about sufficiently,” Cross said.  

The Planning Advisory Board recommended approval of the parking garage design 5-1, with Cross opposing. Next, the design will be presented to City Council for final approval.  

“I think delays are hugely expensive in this day and age. When you have a nonprofit and government entity trying to get something done, that’s a tremendous benefit to the community,” board member Patrick Coughlan said. “I think it’s not helpful to put things off any longer.”  

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