NAPLES — A mechanical claw tore into the old Naples Daily News building Wednesday flicking tons of concrete and rebar to the side as if they were mere strands of hair dangling from its steel fingers.
The demolition is to make way for a mixed-use development on the Central Avenue site, which the new developer said may become a new hub within the city of Naples.
Michael Fernandez, owner of Planning Development Inc., is under contract to buy the property and plans to build residential units that would sell for $200,000-$350,000 each alongside several commercial units, which would include offices, stores, restaurants and medical services. The homes would include some two-story units, lofts and other designs, while the site would have parking directly in front of each store front, he said.
“There will be no cookie cutters in this case. Not all will have the same layout. Not all the same size,” Fernandez said. “You’re not going to be living in the same unit as your neighbor.”
The idea is to minimize the risk through diversity, he said.
“There is so much vacant property in that particular area. This could become a genesis of growth,” Fernandez said.
Other nearby city properties adding up to nearly 50 acres within Naples city limits could soon redefine the Central Avenue area, he said. One potential residential project is planned for property on Goodlette-Frank Road that is owned by the heirs of the late Collier County developer John Pulling Sr.. The other is at the former Grand Central Station, which is to become the mixed-use Renaissance Village. It may be further delayed, however, as owner and developer Jack Antaramian is in the midst of a recently filed lawsuit involving several projects.
Permits were issued this summer for demolition of the old Daily News site, but toxic asbestos concrete slowed progress, Fernandez said.
E.W. Scripps Co., which owns the Daily News, is the current owner of the 10-acre property. The Daily News is now located at 1100 Immokalee Road.
Frank Panipinto, owner of Frank’s Tire and Service Center next door to the demolition site, said the ongoing ruckus doesn’t bother him much.
“It’s only when the building shakes that I get a little nervous,” Panipinto said as the claw of an excavation machine flung another large chunk of concrete to the ground outside his auto shop.
Demolition contractor Gates Butz referred all demo-related questions to Robert Caton, technical service manager of the Daily News.
The mail room was the first to get crushed Wednesday morning, Caton said.
Internal walls were removed earlier. The external concrete walls, which were being soaked with water as they were crushed, are coming down to expose the printing press. The press is “tons and tons of solid steel,” standing nearly 30 feet tall and 80 feet long, Caton said. It is to be the last thing standing in the parking lot where it will be pulled apart and scrapped, he said.
Nearly all hazardous materials were previously removed from the site, Caton said. Four large cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink pipes could be seen through a torn out portion of wall. The ink pipes are empty, Caton said.
Other potentially hazardous materials could be unearthed after the building is gone as tanks and pipes remain under ground, Fernandez said.
“What we have not been able to do is test below the building yet,” he said. That is expected to be done early next year.
It is “extremely unlikely,” Ferandez said, that there are any environmental concerns that would delay or prevent the future project.
“We should have a beautifully clean site at that point,” Fernandez said.