Naples City Council approves, applauds McCabe expansion

Naples officials and business leaders lauded hotel owner Phil McCabe for redeveloping his property on Fifth Avenue South at a time when many people are letting talks of a gloomy economy scare them from making investments.

The accolades came Wednesday morning as City Council unanimously (7-0) approved plans for the redevelopment project that has been in the works for years.

“The naysayers, the doom and gloom, he (McCabe) is in front of all that and we thank him for it,” said Mayor Bill Barnett.

McCabe’s one-story building at the corner of Fifth Avenue South and Park Street was completely demolished earlier this week to make way for a multimillion-dollar, three-story building to come in its place.

McCabe, owner of the Inn on Fifth, purchased the 35-year-old, one-story building for $4.55 million in 2005. The project will make way for more suites for the Inn on Fifth, which is located across the street.

The building will have about 11,000 square feet of commercial space, and a JPMorgan Chase bank is expected to take up about a third of the first floor.

There were some minor concerns. Councilman Gary Price expressed concern over a drive-thru in a busy urban setting.

John Passidomo, of the Naples-based Cheffy-Passidomo law firm, represented McCabe on Wednesday.

“That building wouldn’t be there without a bank and that bank wouldn’t be there without a drive-thru,” said Passidomo.

Drive thru traffic will be using the nearby alley rather than the main thorough fare of Fifth Avenue South or Park Street, he said. This should alleviate any traffic problems, Passidomo said.

The plans are for the mixed-use building to include offices and a woman’s upscale dress shop, Passidomo said. There are to be 32 hotel suites on the second and third floors, he said.

The demolition of the previous building made way for a greater connection between the von Liebig Art Center and Fifth Avenue South—a result of redevelopment that members of council, the art community and area businesses found to be an asset to all.

“We are wholly in support of the project,” said Naples Art Association Director Joel Kessler.

Lise Sundrla, director of the Fifth Avenue South Business Improvement District, agreed.

“It gives us an opportunity to validate that the economy is on the upswing,” Sundrla said.

Adding two more stories with uninhabitable towers exceeds the 42-foot maximum height limit in the city, which was among the plan’s aspects that required special approval.

Neighbors said they weren’t concerned about the height.

“We are elated that Mr. McCabe, in this environment, is moving forward with this project. We’re excited to have him next door,” said Lou Vlasho, co-owner of Vergina restaurant and president of the 5th Avenue South Business Improvement District.

Members of the Naples Area Board of Realtors said they believe the project will help real estate and business in the heart of Naples.

McCabe has said he hopes the new building will open by November 2012.

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