The plan to rebuild Naples Pier with a concession stand over the water toward the center of the structure, as originally endorsed by City Council, conflicts with Federal Emergency Management Agency standards.
As the project to rebuild the landmark severely damaged by Hurricane Ian last year reached its 80% design phase, architects presented updated renderings with the concession stand above shore to comply with FEMA and the Department of Environmental Protection. Council directed city staff to pursue the new design.
“The direction that we’re getting right now is that with a rebuild of this pier, the concession feature being offshore is not really an option,” Naples Parks, Recreation and Facilities Director Chad Merritt said. “If we continue down the path, we can continue the planning, we can continue trying to get the permitting, but essentially at the end, we’re going to get the door slammed on us. And we don’t want to lose time, we don’t want to lose money.”
A newly built structure anywhere on the seaward side of the tideline isn’t permitted by FEMA. In response to this policy, Mark McLean with Naples-based MHK Architecture provided Council renderings showing enhanced shade areas with concessions, now near the start of the pier, facing the beach to prevent congestion. Other changes include an elevated sitting area with a 60-foot ramp.
“As you’re walking out to the pier, you could either go left or right around the lower platform loop, all the way around for the walkers and runners, and come right around the loop and back out. Or you can just slope right up to the middle portion and enjoy the pier for what we’ve designated for,” McLean said.
The new pier was originally proposed with a four-piling system but has since been redesigned to a three-piling structure, similar to the one that existed before the storm. Assessments determined the previous pilings received major damage because they weren’t long enough.
“What it appears is that the pilings that were previously there had a depth to them, and as we got further out on the pier, they never got deeper,” McLean said. “So now, these pilings are going to be deeper to offset that.”
Council member Beth Petrunoff asked if it’s worth the extra investment for additional pilings, but Tim Hall, senior biologist with Turrell, Hall & Associates, said there is a challenge ensuring that the pier can withstand any storm without compromising any historical integrity.
“We could build a concrete bridge that goes out there, and it will be there for 100 years, but that’s all its going to be. It’s going to be a road going into the ocean that does not have the same character and appeal that the pier does,” Hall said. “There is definitely a little bit of give and take. Is it as strong as it could possibly be? No. But do we believe that it’s strong enough to withstand the conditions that we’ve seen from the storms that have gone through here? Then the answer is yes.”
With construction anticipated to last 12 to 18 months, the city seeks to have all necessary permits by the end of the year so construction can begin in early 2024.