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The proposed First Avenue South public parking garage in downtown Naples is at its 60% design phase. The three story, four-level garage will be on the south side of First Avenue and to the west of Goodlette-Frank Road, next to the future Gulfshore Playhouse development.

The parking lot is planned for 366 spaces with a clockwise ascension to each floor. The top level will be uncovered and used under agreement with Gulfshore Playhouse for valet parking during dedicated performance times.

In June 2022, city of Naples, Naples Community Redevelopment Agency, Downtown Naples LLC and Gulfshore Playhouse entered into a parking garage agreement designating Downtown Naples LLC and Gulfshore Playhouse as collective landowners of the property. The Wynn family of Downtown Naples LLC and Gulfshore Playhouse currently both own separate parts of the property.

A commercial building on the site has yet to be demolished. The Wynn family entered into a contract with the city and offered the parcel of land for a parking garage of no less than 360 spaces to complement Gulfshore Playhouse.

The funding for the garage comes from the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency fund, a board made up of the same members as Naples City Council. It is funded by the city and county through taxpayers whose homes or businesses are within the CRA district. The city contributed almost $2 million and the county almost $6 million to the fund last year.

“This $5.7 million coming from the county, it’s not money coming from the county, this is our taxpayers’ money,” CRA chairman Michael McCabe said. “We’re 5% of the county’s population, but we’re arguably roughly 27% of the county’s revenues. So this is not the county giving us money. This is our taxpayer’s money coming back to us. So yes, we need to be fiduciary stewards of this because we need to make sure that our taxpayers’ money is spent in the best and wisest way.”

Dan Summers, president of BSSW Architects, presented to the agency a comparison of what was spent on the Eighth Avenue South parking garage to the proposed First Avenue South garage. The already-built 323-space garage cost the city $8 million in 2008. If 43 spaces are added to equate to the 366 spaces of the proposed garage and the price is brought to today’s prices, it amounts to $13.2 million. The estimate of the new garage at the point of the 60% design is just under $15 million.

Although the garage comes with a large price tag, Michael Wynn said it is an investment the downtown area needs in order to continue development of the area. 

“While business owners have all faced increasing inflationary pressures, we’ve also been forced to look for opportunity savings. But we also have a responsibility to make sure that we cut back where it makes sense and to be cautious in not compromising where it’ll cost us more in the future,” Wynn said. “The garage is a great example of this. We can’t compromise on the size, and we have to be cautious too on cutting back too much on the design elements. Our community, Naples Square residents in particular, deserve a design that complements the unique character of our community and is not utilitarian in design. That ultimately inspires no one.”

Gulfshore Playhouse CEO Kristen Coury said it’s crucial for the parking garage approval process to move as quickly as possible, as the theater is dependent on the completion of the garage in order to receive its certificate of occupancy. Gulfshore Playhouse is working toward a goal of opening its building in fall of 2024.

“This parking garage will provide the lifeblood of the entire district,” Coury said. “Businesses will flourish, and more and more customers will be flooding the district, desirous of spending their time and money in the newest, most exciting downtown district.”

The approval process has been delayed due to environmental concerns. In December, an environmental site assessment identified an inoperable hydraulic in-ground lift on Wynn’s property. At this point, soil has been collected for boring tests and the lift has been removed.

The city now has until April 4 to provide notice it would still like to proceed with the transfer of property and construction of the parking garage.

“I think everyone is on the same page that this is a very exciting project and one that we want to see happen in the best manner possible in the most expeditious way so that the Playhouse can lock in a season of players and we as citizens can all enjoy the benefits of that,” council member Beth Petrunoff said.

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