NAPLES — A cheese shop once called the building home.
So did a movie theater, a library and some even say it’s the original home of Naples City Hall.
Now the historic building, 1148 Third St. S., sits empty, filled with dust, dirt and memories of years gone by.
That could change soon, as contractors begin work on renovating the historic Third Street South building that’s been vacant for about three years.
The city of Naples issued a demolition permit to contractors working on the Olde Naples Building. The building has been vacant since 2006, when Fantozzi’s, a wine and cheese shop, and two small galleries left the property.
The permit is for selective interior demolition, said Joe Berko, the city’s deputy building official. A selective demolition permit explicitly spells out what can, and more importantly cannot, be removed from the property because of the building’s place in Naples history.
Berko was not immediately aware of what type of work was being done on the property.
John Passidomo, the Naples attorney representing the building’s owners, said contractors are “discerning what is historically significant and what isn’t.”
The building was built in 1921, and was home to one of the city’s earliest development companies, a church, an early City Hall and a movie theater.
“What they’re doing is looking for economically viable ways to preserve the building and enhance its significance,” Passidomo said. “It’s the first City Hall. The first library. Just about everything that occurred in Naples has happened in this building.”
While the building is in a historic district, it is not on the National Register of Historic Places. Third Street South has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1987.
“It’s not there, and they never chose to have it on there,” said Lois Bolin, cofounder of Naples Backyard History. “But I’d bet a doughnut to a dollar that they’re looking at it.”
There’s talk around town, though, that the renovations may mean a new tenant is coming to the building.
No one has approached the city’s planning department about zoning changes for the property, said Robin Singer, the city’s planning director.
Naples City Manager Bill Moss, in an e-mail to Councilman John Sorey, said the city doesn’t know what they plan to use the building for, but “speculation of staff suggests a restaurant may locate there.” Moss went on to say the demolition permit “does not confirm such a planned use at this time.”
That’s because there aren’t any plans currently on the table, said Passidomo.
“There’s no tenant lined up at all,” he said. “They need to do the due diligence work, (and) the market isn’t right.”
Connect with Naples reporter Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster at www.naplesnews.com/staff/jenna_buzzacco