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Q: Any new news on the large lot off of 41 and Frederick? The last time you posted, Marriott was pitching a hotel and convention center. I guess that’s better than a strip mall. Any new info would be appreciated. Thanks. — M.J.W., Naples and New York 

A: Since breaking the news six months ago that a major hotel is proposed for the vacant lots along the East Trail in East Naples that used to be home to Little Italy and Checkers Drive-In restaurants, the project is making its way through the Collier County permitting process. 

The proposed 438-room luxury hotel and conference center is just outside the Naples city limits and across U.S. 41 East from the Metropolitan Naples high-density, mixed-use development in the Bayshore Gateway Triangle redevelopment area.  

The application for the hotel seeks to rezone nine parcels totaling 4.28 acres on the south side of U.S. 41 between Palm Street and Frederick Street from C-4 commercial zoning in the Gateway Triangle Zoning Overlay Mixed Use Subdistrict to a new commercial planned unit development—Columbia Sussex CPUD—that proposes a maximum zoned height of 124 feet or 10 stories. The CPUD’s proposed destination resort includes seven floors of hotel rooms above three levels of structured parking, as well as a spa and fitness center, restaurant and bar, conference rooms, ballrooms and a pool deck, according to documents filed with the county’s Growth Management Department.  

The development project is proposed by Columbia Sussex, a privately owned company based in the Kentucky region of Greater Cincinnati that develops and manages more than 40 upscale and midscale hotels in the nation. Columbia Sussex’s portfolio includes a variety of hotel brands in multiple states.  

Of the company’s six hotels in Florida, four of them carry the Marriott flag. The hotel planned in East Naples is expected to be branded JW Marriott, a Marriott International luxury hotel brand that also has a beach resort on Marco Island. The new 483-room hotel in East Naples would be similar in size to Marriott Orlando Airport Lakeside, which has 485 rooms and suites, the largest of Columbia Sussex’s properties in Florida. The nearest hotel owned by Columbia Sussex is the 347-room Marriott Sanibel Harbour Resort & Spa in Fort Myers. 

Preliminary plans for the new hotel show a boomerang-shaped building with one of its two wings starting at the corner of Frederick Street and U.S. 41 and running along 41 to the hotel’s second wing, which turns south to bisect the property. Architectural plans and timelines for the hotel’s construction or completion are not available yet. 

County government requires the developer to host a neighborhood information meeting (NIM) for this type of application. Public hearings cannot be held until the NIM criteria has been met. Public meetings have not been scheduled yet for this project. 

During a review of the planned unit development rezoning application, the county found engineering, legal, transportation and zoning issues that still need to be addressed, according to a September letter sent to the project’s engineer by the zoning division of the Growth Management Department. 

Columbia Sussex has longtime local connections. 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. The land alone is worth more than that now and the home’s market value has doubled, property records show. 

The proposed hotel property, the largest vacant commercial property within the Gateway Triangle Mixed Use subdistrict, has frontage along U.S. 41 East to its north, Frederick Street to its west and Palm Street to its east. In coordination with the Florida Department of Transportation, a proposed developer commitment would construct improvements to Palm Street south of U.S. 41 and the intersection as needed to support the traffic impact from the development, county documents show. 

In early 2022, Naples-based Barron Collier Companies purchased the East Trail parcels for the future commercial redevelopment project and demolished the Little Italy restaurant, which had been vacant since it 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 2014 after closing its double drive-thru restaurant in early 2010 at 1841 Frederick St., across from Naples Bay Resort & Marina. 

Barron Collier Companies bought the collection of 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. 

Higher intensity urban redevelopment was envisioned with the creation of the Bayshore Gateway Triangle Community Redevelopment Plan in 2000. The most notable and noticeable projects so far are those planned across the street from the proposed hotel in the Gateway Zoning Overlay. 

The Ellington, a 10-story, mixed-use hotel and condominium development proposed on 1.92-acres at the point of the intersection of Davis Boulevard and U.S. 41 in East Naples, has yet to break ground, but massive cranes towering over Davis Boulevard draw attention to Metropolitan Naples’ vertical construction there. The mixed-use development has zoning approval for up to 111,000 square feet of commercial uses, 90,000 square feet of office and medical office, 228 hotel rooms and 377 multifamily dwellings on 5.35 acres with a maximum zoned height of 160 feet. 

The “Tim Aten Knows” weekly column answers local questions from readers. Email Tim at tim.aten@naplespress.com. 

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