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More luxury apartments soon could make their way to Collier County in what is known as the mini-triangle of the Bayshore Gateway Community Redevelopment Area, or CRA, on the corner of Davis Boulevard and Tamiami Trial East.

The county’s Planning Commission voted 6-0 in favor of a request by Metropolitan Naples’ developers to increase the allowed number of multifamily units to accommodate apartments, with a minimum commercial square footage of 45,000. Next, Metropolitan Naples must present its rezoning request to Collier County commissioners.

The entire slice of land, a 5.35-acre parcel just east of downtown Naples, has been viewed since 2018 as a catalyst to spur further growth in the Bayshore area. The county has approved the area to be split into three parcels, with two of the three lots already in the works. Lot one is planned to be 270 multifamily luxury apartments, while lot two is a small .7-acre space that will be home to the Aura, a 15-story luxury condominium. Plans for parcel three is what Metropolitan Naples, led by developers Jerry Starkey and Fred Pezeshkan, presented to the Planning Commission this week.

The zoning for the third piece of the triangle allows for 377 dwelling units and 200,000 square feet of commercial space. Originally, Metropolitan Naples shared plans for a hotel with a movie theater for the 1.7-acre plot.

However, due to market changes caused by The Ellington hotel rooms and the CMX CineBistro in Coastland Center mall, Starkey and Pezeshkan are now leaning toward developing another luxury apartment building.

The Ellington will be a mixed-use hotel and luxury condominium development at the tip of the mini-triangle and not owned by Starkey and Pezeshkan. With plans to open in early 2023, Metropolitan Naples didn’t feel it was appropriate to add another hotel to that corner.

Planning Commission member Robert Klucik Jr. disagreed with the mindset of avoiding the development of another hotel. “It just seems strange that because there’s a hotel there wouldn’t be another hotel. I find it seems like it’s the exact opposite,” Klucik said.

The new zoning that Starkey and Pezeshkan are requesting still allows for a hotel in case plans change. However, to accommodate a potential apartment building, they would like to change the zoning to allow for an additional 114 multifamily residential dwelling units for a total of 491 while changing the minimum required commercial square footage from 67,000 to 40,000 square feet.

Chairman of the Planning Commission, Edwin Fryer, said he would like to see the minimum commercial space be 45,000 square feet.

“Given the fact that this part of the East Trail really changes its name to Fifth Avenue South when you go a few yards west, it’s going to have all the cachet,” Fryer said. “It seemed to me that in order to fulfill the expectations of the board and the expectations in question being the catalyst in Gateway and the sense of place and the other language that was put in there, that some more commercial would be highly desirable for Collier County.”

Metropolitan Naples representatives said they were willing to change their minimum commercial square footage from 40,000 to 45,000, with 15,000 square feet of office space required. With a maximum commercial space of 130,000 square feet, a decrease from the current 200,000, some potential uses listed in the request, besides retail and restaurants, include a yoga studio or a car dealership.

The zoning plan also allows the potential for a 150-unit assisted-living facility. Although that use is unlikely, Starkey wants the zoning to remain in place in case of an unprecedented market change.

“As you all know, zoning stays in place for a long time, and our goal is to start the buildings and complete the development as quickly as possible,” Starkey said. “But if we had some unforeseen event that caused the market to stall for years, like a recession or a war, that would be a compatible use in our view because older people are currently spending $2 million plus to live in a home that’s catered with all the amenities of life care.”

Bayshore Gateway CRA officials expressed being in full favor of the project regardless of what the Triangle becomes. “We’re excited. We were waiting for something to happen on that corner to jumpstart that whole area,” said Bayshore CRA Project Manager Tami Scott. “The CRA is getting ready to do a master plan for the Gateway Triangle. Once this project does take off, we do anticipate some movement there, and we’re going to be ready for it.”

Affordable housing was brought up during public comment on Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting, with Affordable Housing Advisory Committee member John Harney explaining how this piece of land could impact the surrounding workforce due to its location close to downtown.

“If we are going to begin to solve the affordable housing problem that we have, we need to consider areas like this, particularly for placing affordable housing,” Harney said. “It’s very available for transit. People who could work in the downtown area at hotels and restaurants could very easily take a bus, ride a bike or even walk because it’s that close.”

Since the deal with Metropolitan Naples was set up in 2018 without discussion of affordable housing, the planning commission said they didn’t feel it would be appropriate to change the development requirements now. “I just don’t think it would be fair at this point to change the rules retroactively,” Fryer said. “If this were a brand-new thing coming forward, which was a clean slate, I would agree completely with you.”

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