NAPLES — The former Grand Central Station site in downtown Naples is chugging along toward the final step of foreclosure.
The prime piece of real estate is headed to a public auction Wednesday.
It's scheduled to be sold at the Collier County courthouse, off U.S. 41 East, during a foreclosure auction that starts at 11 a.m.
In March, Alabama-based Regions Bank, a lead lender, filed a foreclosure action against Brompton Road Partners, owners of the 19-acre site at the northwest corner of Goodlette-Frank Road and Fifth Avenue South.
Court records show lenders on the property are owed nearly $47 million, including court costs and interest. About $43 million in principal was owed on the note secured by the mortgage that Regions foreclosed on.
The developers had dreams of turning the now-vacant property into a shopping, entertainment and residential mecca called Renaissance Village. Those plans lost their steam when a real estate boom went bust. The project would have included 205,000 square feet of commercial space and 300 residences, including luxury condos and townhomes priced from the mid-$700,000s to more than $2 million.
Naples developer Jack Antaramian, a partner in the Brompton Road company, had no comment Monday about the foreclosure sale. In an interview in May, he said he made an offer to buy back the mortgage, but the bank rejected it, telling him it was "insufficient."
"Given the nature of these proceedings, we do not comment on them," said Mel Campbell, a Regions spokesman.
The looming foreclosure was one of the reasons another developer backed out of a plan to create a mixed-use project at 1075 Central Ave., formerly the home of the Naples Daily News.
Earlier this year, Michael Fernandez, owner of Planning Development Inc. in Naples, didn't follow through on a proposal to purchase the northern piece of property from E.W. Scripps Co., the owner of the Daily News. That property is still up for sale and Fernandez said he might decide to buy it after all, but not until he knows more about the fate of the former Grand Central Station site blocks away.
Fernandez and others expect Regions Bank to get the Grand Central Station land back at this week's auction.
"They are assuming they are going to get it back and they are going to put it on the market and see what happens," he said.
In fact, a consortium of banks involved in the foreclosure already have hired a well-known national broker — Holliday Fenoglio Fowler LP — to market the property for sale, said David Stevens, a principal in Naples-based Investment Properties Corp.
He's seen the marketing packet, which details what the site offers and highlights its closeness to the swanky shops and restaurants along Fifth Avenue South.
The lenders are hoping to get at least $20 million for the property, Stevens estimates.
"The lenders will be seeking a bracket in the $20-$25 million range," he said. "If there is perhaps some concept that warrants a number higher than that, maybe they will get more."
Fernandez said a more likely price might be somewhere around $12 million to $15 million.
"It's a very large challenging piece of property and ultimately my guess is that it will be broken up in several pieces," he said.
Fernandez wouldn't say how much he'd offered for the former site of the Naples Daily News on the north side of Central Avenue. But, he said, if the selling price of the Grand Central Station site is close to that offer it could give the competing developer a leg up because that location is better, considering its visibility from U.S. 41.
That would especially be true if the projects were similar, Fernandez said.
"We would have difficulty even getting ours started," he said.
His company did go through with plans to purchase a smaller slice of land on the south side of Central Avenue, which was used as a parking lot for the Daily News before it relocated to North Naples.
Fernandez has plans to build a smaller mixed-use project on that land with 4,000 square feet of commercial space — including the firm's offices — and 17 to 20 residences. But those plans also are on hold as Fernandez waits to see what happens at the auction.
Naples broker Ross McIntosh said he expects the lenders to negotiate with many prospective buyers because of the property's prime location.
He predicted other buyers won't be interested in purchasing the Grand Central Station site on the courthouse steps because they'll only want it if it can be rezoned from its current mixed-use designation. So he expects the bank's sale to another buyer to be contingent on that rezoning.
"Nobody wants Renaissance Village," McIntosh said, describing it as a pre-boom project. "Nobody is going to want to build what's currently allowed on the property."