A major redevelopment project proposed in downtown Naples would visually extend Fifth Avenue South, the city’s historical main street, with three-story structures proposed just east of Four Corners.
The significant proposal from Aspen, Colorado-based M Development plans to cluster a new Whole Foods Market, Restoration Hardware, restaurants and other retailers with luxury condominiums in three-story buildings on more than 4.5 acres that include the former iconic St. George and the Dragon restaurant site at Fifth Avenue South and 10th Street South as well as six other adjacent parcels. Extending to 11th Street South and Sixth Avenue South, the large site on nearly two blocks of downtown property is considered a gateway into the city of Naples.
“About 20% of the city,” Naples Design Review Board Chair Stephen Hruby joked after reading the seven addresses affected by the proposed project during the project’s Feb. 22 presentation to the DRB. The board unanimously approved the preliminary design of the project at that meeting.
“It’s a multiuse project, so we have lively retail, residences and then there’s the presence of a food market and a refined home goods store,” said Morris Adjmi, the founder of New York City-based Morris Adjmi Architects, the project’s architect of record, working locally with Naples-based MHK Architecture & Planning. “We feel that this site is a connector on the west to the Fifth Avenue shopping district and the east Tin City as well as Old Naples to the south and the Design District to the north.”Architectural plans for the project initially were presented to the DRB in November when the board voted to continue the preliminary design review to the new year, giving planners more time to refine the Fifth and 10th project. Although DRB members raved about the plans last fall, they weren’t sure the massive mixed-use project was an appropriate fit for the city. Rather than vote then to reject one of the largest single proposals ever before the DRB, the project was sent back to the drawing board.
Comments from DRB board members helped elevate the project, architect Adjmi said.
“I’ve always said that we like to embrace the process. I think that hearing the comments and listening and really making changes has made the project better,” he said. “I guess the easiest way to describe it is we gave it an ‘archectomy.’ We removed a lot of those arches that were overwhelming the project.” At least one DRB member took issue with the overuse of arches on each floor of the buildings as presented in the earlier plans. The updated plans retained arches on the ground level but altered the architectural elements on the upper floors.
The proposal features two three-story mixed-use buildings with a total of 52 residential units and more than 125,000 square feet of commercial uses. The project includes the 900 and 1000 blocks of Fifth Avenue South just east of Four Corners, where U.S. 41 makes a sharp turn east. The site is bordered by Fifth Avenue South to its north, Sixth Avenue South to its south, the 900 Building and an alleyway to the west and 11th Street South to the east, while 10th Street South bisects the property. Three office buildings would be razed for the project on mostly vacant parcels that include 936, 1010, 1050 and 1074 Fifth Ave. S.; 590 11th St. S.; and 975 and 1041 Sixth Ave. S.
Four local residents all spoke in favor of the project during the public comment portion of the February DRB meeting. No public comments were made opposing the project.
“I think this is going to be a great enhancement to the Fifth Avenue area and a great necessary connectivity between Fifth and the Tin City and Naples Bay area,” Naples resident Josh Willard said. “I think the architecture is amazing. MHK and MA have done a great job and I’m just really excited about it.”
DRB members Lindsey Bulloch and Mike Faucett, who both live in Naples Square across the street from the proposed project, were concerned about the traffic the new development would bring to that area, but the DRB basically considers only architectural and landscaping plans.“The density, the impact to this area is going to be enormous,” Faucett said.
DRB Chair Hruby said the project is going to have a large, immediate impact on the city, the traffic and the surroundings.
“As I made comment in November, this is an important project in Naples. It’s not a building; it’s a redevelopment,” he said. “It’s a huge block in a very iconic location. So, we’re taking this pretty seriously as to what it is. It’s scale, no matter what it is there, no matter what we build there, it’s a big project.”
With preliminary design review by the DRB and site plan approvals from the city planning staff, the project still must go before the city’s planning advisory board, city council and then back to the DRB for final design approval.