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Q: Any news on the property of the Little Italy on 41 in East Naples? I heard it was going to be a hotel. — Patty Munger-Keady, East Naples  

A: While only in an early planning stage, a hotel with a convention center has been proposed for the vacant acreage that formerly was bookended by the Little Italy restaurant and Checkers drive-thru on Tamiami Trail East in East Naples.  

A pre-application meeting with the Collier County Growth Management Department was submitted last week for a proposal to rezone the 4.28 acres from a C-4 commercial district to a commercial planned unit development. The rezoning would allow the construction of a hotel on a cluster of eight small parcels on the south side of U.S. 41 between Palm Street and Frederick Street.  

The development project, Columbia Sussex CPUD, is proposed for a 438-room hotel and conference center with an understory parking garage, county records show. Columbia Sussex, based in the Kentucky region of Greater Cincinnati, develops and manages more than 40 upscale and midscale hotels in the nation. A franchisee for many national hotel brands, Columbia Sussex owns six hotel properties in Florida, including the Marriott Sanibel Harbour Resort & Spa in Fort Myers.  

William Yung, the founder of Columbia Sussex, and his wife, Martha, have had a home in the Naples area for more than 20 years. In 2010, the Yungs bought an $11 million Port Royal home with a pool and boat dock on a Naples Bay inlet. Of course, the land alone is worth more than that now and the home’s market value has doubled, property records show.

A year ago, Barron Collier Cos. purchased the East Trail parcels for the future commercial redevelopment project and demolished the Little Italy Restaurant last summer. The restaurant had been vacant since Little Italy closed in May 2014 after a nearly 25-year run at 2096 Tamiami Trail E. On the other end of the proposed hotel property, Checkers was razed in 2016 after closing its double drive-thru restaurant in early 2010 at 1841 Frederick St.  

Barron Collier Cos. had to file to vacate two unimproved road rights of way on the properties in order to permit the development of the site as a single-use commercial development. If approved, the new hotel will be near other major upscale hotel and mixed-use projects coming to the corner of U.S. 41 East and Davis Boulevard in the Bayshore Gateway Triangle.  

Barron Collier Cos. bought the parcels from Atlanta-based RaceTrac Petroleum, which had planned to build a convenience store and gas station across that property when it purchased the land in 2016. The RaceTrac proposal encountered major opposition from residents in the neighboring community, so the company abandoned its plans there and built a store and station about a half-mile east on the corner of U.S. 41 East and Shadowlawn Drive.  

Representatives of Columbia Sussex could not be reached to provide a tentative timeline for building the proposed hotel.

Old Naples Hotel   

Q: Is the Old Naples Hotel project ever going to happen? They were supposed to break ground this past fall 2022. Have you heard of any progress as to when they will break ground?  — Terri Gonzalez, Naples  

A: Groundbreaking and target opening dates for the Old Naples Hotel are still not available, but the proposed project remains alive and continues to progress through the permitting process in the city of Naples.  

“They are in for building permit review right now. It’s a pretty big project and everybody looks at it,” said Naples Senior Planner Margaret Perry, noting that the project has to be reviewed by the planning department and many other city government departments such as fire, police and utilities. “I approved it from a planning perspective, but I know they have not been issued a building permit yet.”The project entails the redevelopment of the property that formerly was home to The Plaza on Third Street, which bordered Third Street South, Broad Avenue and Gordon Drive a couple of blocks from the Gulf in downtown Naples. The Camalier family, Naples residents for nearly 60 years and the owners of the property, have partnered with Florida-based Ocean Properties Hotels & Resorts to build and operate the boutique hotel.  

Plans show a 109-room hotel with a courtyard, cafe/bar, fitness center, spa, sundry shop and other amenities. The proposed three-story development includes about 3,755 square feet of retail space on the ground floor along Third Street South.  

Naples Design Review Board granted preliminary design approval of the project in May 2017 with conditions that included obtaining an administrative site plan and a parking needs analysis, and City Council’s approval of a conditional use petition for transient lodging in the C1 zoning district, as well as a site plan with deviations to allow architectural elements exceeding the 42-foot height limitation. City Council approved the project’s conditional use permit and site plan with deviations in May 2018. At that point, the hotel was targeted to open around Thanksgiving 2020, but the project encountered delays. “It has been delayed but so have a lot of things,” said Perry, referring to the pandemic, the economy, supply issues and hurricanes.  

However, the project’s retooled construction documents were not ready to be presented for final design review until early 2020 and the Camaliers didn’t announce their partnership with Ocean Properties until early 2022. In between, the vacant, open-air Third Street Plaza was demolished in late 2020. Since then, the slightly more than two acres of land between the Sea Salt restaurant and the historic Olde Naples Building has been a green space at 1170 Third St. S.  

“We are still in for permits,” confirmed Marie Caronia, an administrative assistant with North South Construction, the building subsidiary for Ocean Properties’ hotel construction projects. “It’s definitely not shelved. It’s definitely in for permits. It’s been in for permits for a while.” The first documents were submitted to the city last October, Caronia said, but she doesn’t have a target date yet for the start of construction.  

“It just depends on the city of Naples,” she said. “They have been working very fast. The drawings are in. It’s been a lot more complicated because of the hurricane.”  

The “Tim Aten Knows” weekly column answers local questions from readers. Email Tim at 

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