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Q: Heard that maybe a Restoration Hardware store/restaurant combination is going in where the St. George & the Dragon used to be. Know anything about that? Would be fabulous! — Barbara Riess, Naples 

Q: Is the rumor correct that a Whole Foods will open in East Naples? — Louise Bender, East Naples 

A: A new significant redevelopment involving Restoration Hardware, Whole Foods Market, restaurants and other retailers with luxury condominiums on its upper floors has been proposed for properties that include the former St. George & the Dragon restaurant site at Fifth Avenue South and 10th Street South as well as six other adjacent parcels encompassing nearly two blocks in downtown Naples. The mixed-use project’s architectural plans are scheduled to be preliminarily presented next Friday, Nov. 18, to the city’s Design Review Board. 

An Oct. 4 application filed with the city planning department shows that Naples architect Matthew Kragh of MHK Architecture & Planning is representing petitioner 5th Avenue South Holdings LP in redeveloping the vacant site of the former St. George and the Dragon restaurant at 936 Fifth Ave. S. and parcels totaling more than 4 acres at 1010, 1050 and 1074 Fifth Ave. S.; 590 11th St. S.; and 975 and 1041 Sixth Ave. S. Signs for the Nov. 18 public hearing in the Naples City Council chambers are posted at each of those lots and the city has posted supporting documents for the project on its government website. 

Aspen-based M Development bought the 4.27 acres of downtown Naples property for $43.5 million in a deal arranged and announced last fall by Franklin Street, a Tampa-based commercial real estate firm. M Development has transformed redevelopment opportunities in affluent communities such as Aspen, Palm Beach and Atlanta’s Buckhead, Franklin Street notes. The Naples proposal includes three-story mixed-use buildings totaling more than 500,000 square feet. 

Andy Penev, head of development for M Development LLC, said this week that the company wants to present its proposal to Naples City Council and fine-tune the plans before too many details are published. “We’re super excited about it and we’ve done a lot of really cool work and really brought in some elite partners and tenants,” Penev said.

Early plans show that a more than 50,000-square-foot, three-story Restoration Hardware store is planned to anchor a pair of two new buildings totaling 290,868 square feet proposed for the 1000 block of Fifth Avenue South. RH, known as the California-based home-furnishings company, operates upscale showrooms it calls galleries, promoted as blurring the line between residential and retail, indoors and outdoors, home and hospitality. A rooftop restaurant and terrace are proposed for the third floor of the gallery, a feature atop many RH locations, including Florida galleries in Jacksonville, Tampa and West Palm Beach. 

Preliminary plans show RH Naples with 19,832 square feet on each of its first and second floors with 11,248 square feet on the third floor bracketed by a large terrace. A larger L-shaped, mixed-use building rounds out the block with 33 condominium units proposed on two floors above retail and restaurant spaces. This block of buildings would have 286 below-grade parking spaces beneath it. 

Restoration Hardware has considered entering the Naples market for years. The company previously looked at the large, two-story Nordstrom store vacated in Waterside Shops and the former Orchard Supply Hardware location where Walter E. Smithe Furniture & Design is creating its first showroom outside of the Midwest. 

Plans for the RH rooftop restaurant come just weeks after the Design Review Board was presented the initial plans for the city’s first rooftop restaurant less than two blocks west on Fifth Avenue South. Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, which operates Ocean Prime and Del Mar on Fifth, proposes building Prime Social rooftop restaurant to bridge adjacent buildings in the 800 block of Fifth. 

In addition to a restaurant atop Restoration Hardware, M Development’s project is expected to provide additional new dining spots downtown. “We’re in talks with a couple of others but nothing inked yet,” Penev said. “That’s kind of what we’re working through so we’re not entirely sure just yet. We’re weighing all of our options.”

At more than 40,000 square feet on the ground floor of the 900-block building, Whole Foods Market is proposed to anchor the new development fronting Fifth Avenue South. While not in East Naples, the new store will be nearer that market than the chain’s first area store in North Naples. The second location in Collier County for the Austin-based grocer will be smaller than the Amazon subsidiary’s 52,000-square-foot store that opened 14 years ago to anchor Mercato. 

The proposed 219,320-square-foot grocery store building, a three-story structure with 22 multifamily condominium units planned on its two upper floors, will feature other retail opportunities, 22 parking spaces on the ground floor for the residential units as well as 198 below-grade parking spaces, preliminary plans show. 

M Development believes the project will be beneficial for Naples, of course. “The uses I think are very ideal for what Naples wants and what Naples needs,” Penev said. “What we’re planning and what Restoration Hardware is planning is so beautiful. I know it may be biased coming from me, but it really is just beautiful architecture and planning and open space and landscaping. So, I think everybody will be very happy with what we’ve kind of drawn up here.” 

In the development application filed with the city, the architect notes that the project complements downtown Naples, provides several open-air amenity areas and neatly engages with the street. “The building enhances the existing streetscape along Fifth Avenue South and 10th Street and adds to the local community along Fifth Avenue South. The design of the building is indicative of modern Naples style with elements that resemble the surrounding community throughout Naples, addresses the resident and maintains a common landscaped environment.”

Whole Foods is proposed on the former footprint of St. George & the Dragon restaurant. This historic dining destination closed 10 years ago after operating for more than 40 years by the Ginos family. The old-school steakhouse was sold and demolished years ago for other redevelopment projects that didn’t get off the ground. Three other buildings on the south side of the 900 and 1000 blocks of Fifth Avenue South face a wrecking ball to create additional open space for the latest redevelopment plan. 

At least two existing three-story office buildings will be razed to create more project space. Florida Gulf Coast University has leased space in one of the buildings at 1010 Fifth Ave. S., across U.S. 41 from the historic Naples Depot Museum. The building at 975 Sixth Ave. S. was formerly home to MHK Architecture and the offices of many other local businesses. A third smaller building at 590 11th St. S. has served as a Real Estate Information Center and a former bank across from Mino restaurant and the Shoppes at Dockside. 

The redevelopment project proposes to prominently extend the historically upscale presence of Fifth Avenue South east of Four Corners. 

“From our perspective, it’s going to be a beautiful mixed-use project. Very elite tenants. Very elite designers. We’re actually focusing a lot on open space and creating a beautiful transition from Fifth kind of into the rest of Tin City and, quite frankly, south Naples,” said Penev, noting that M Development plans a project of significant scale. 

“We want to make sure everything and everybody complements each other so not only within our development but within the immediate vicinity in greater Naples and Fifth Ave and downtown,” he said. “It behooves us to look at it that way both for ourselves and for everybody else because at the end of the day if you make something that is complementary to itself and its surroundings, it will be a success. The last thing you want to do is create tension and we’re not in the business of doing that.” 

M Development is in the business of building “forever real estate,” which means it builds with quality, Penev said. “We’d rather spend a couple of extra dollars and build something that both the city and ourselves would be proud of forever, so our kids and our kids’ kids would be proud of.” 

“Tim Aten Knows,” a column answering local questions from readers, is published every Friday at Follow Tim Aten on social media: @TimAtenKnows on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. 


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