NAPLES — A prime piece of downtown Naples real estate once known as Grand Central Station could soon be up for grabs.
And that prospect has the nearby Central Avenue site owned by the Naples Daily News back on the market after a developer didn't follow through with plans to acquire it.
Alabama-based Regions Bank in March filed foreclosure proceedings against Brompton Road Partners, the owners of the 19-acre Grand Central Station site at the northwest corner of Goodlette-Frank Road and Fifth Avenue South.
The company owes more than $57 million on the undeveloped property, according to court documents filed in mid-May.
Naples developer Jack Antaramian, a partner in the Brompton Road company, confirmed the bank is in the process of taking it over. Antaramian said he made an offer to the bank to buy back the mortgage, but the "bank rejected (the offer) as insufficient."
Neither Lori Vaugh, a Tampa-based attorney representing the bank, nor bank officials could be reached for comment about the proceedings.
The Fifth Avenue South property was slated to be developed into shopping, entertainment and residential properties called Renaissance Village. Construction on the project was meant to begin in 2007, but was postponed because of the downturn in the real estate market.
Antaramian labeled the project Renaissance Village after he purchased a 15.7-acre parcel previously known as Grand Central Station from the NCH Healthcare System for $25 million in spring 2005. He later purchased the adjacent parcels to assemble the 19 acres for his project.
Antaramian told the Daily News in 2007 that plans for the development included 300 residential units and 205,000 square feet of commercial space. By December 2006, more than 60 percent of the residential units were reserved, including luxury condos and town houses priced from the mid-$700,000s to more than $2 million.
The project was expected to be the last phase of the Naples Bay Resort and Marina and Sandpiper Condominiums. Naples Bay Resort has been moving through bankruptcy proceedings, and in April a federal judge approved financing to keep the resort open throughout the year.
The bankruptcy case has pitted Antaramian against his former partners in the resort project: Fred Pezeshkan, president and CEO of Manhattan Construction (Florida), a general contractor in Naples, and foreign investors Iraj Zand and Raymond Sehayek.
The four businessmen also worked together on the Renaissance Village project, Antaramian said recently.
Collier County court records show the businessmen entered into an amended loan agreement with the bank in April 2008. That agreement allowed their company to renew an existing loan for $40 million and take out a second loan for about $5.17 million. The two loans, according to court records, were consolidated into one loan worth more than $45.17 million.
Court records show the consolidated loan was meant to mature by Nov. 21, 2010. The company didn't pay by the maturity date, and according to court records the bank requested "the immediate payment in full" on March 5, 2010.
The looming foreclosure was a contributing factor in a developer's decision to back out of a plan to create a mixed-use community at 1075 Central Ave., the former home of the Daily News.
Michael Fernandez, owner of Planning Development Inc., said his company let a contract with E.W. Scripps Co., which owns the Daily News, for the north piece of its Central Avenue property lapse earlier this year.
The company did complete the purchase of a smaller piece of land on the south side of Central Avenue, which once served as the newspaper's parking lot.
Fernandez said he didn't feel comfortable moving forward with the entire purchase knowing that the Renaissance Village property would soon be back on the market.
"It's a much better position (and) it will be a direct competitor to the Naples Daily News project, depending on the price it sells for," Fernandez said of the Renaissance Village site.
Fernandez has said his company planned to build 117 residential units and have about 100,000 square feet of commercial space on Central Avenue. The company, according to an October 2011 Daily News report, had tentative agreements for 5,400 square feet of commercial space.
Fernandez said his company had lined up all of its financing, but decided to let the contract option lapse because it didn't know what the competition will be.
Tim Wesolowski, chief financial officer at E.W. Scripps, said once Planning Development Inc. decided to let the contract lapse, Scripps decided to put the main parcel on the north side of Central Avenue back up for sale.
Fernandez said his firm hasn't completely given up on the Central Avenue location; the company plans to build a small mixed-use project on the south parcel of land. That project will include about 4,000 square feet of commercial space — including the firm's offices — and 17 to 20 residential units.
The company also could come back and bid on the north parcel depending on how the Renaissance Village sale shakes out. However, Fernandez said his firm is one of several companies in talks with Regions about the Grand Central Station property.
Antaramian said he won't be making a bid once the Grand Central Station property goes back on the market, but said whatever happens there the 19 acres is important to the city of Naples.
"It's very critical," he said.