A prime piece of downtown Naples real estate is off the market.
Wheelock Street Capital, a Connecticut-based investment firm, announced Friday that is has purchased the old Grand Central Station property at Goodlette-Frank Road and Fifth Avenue South. The Ronto Group of East Naples will serve as Wheelock’s development partner.
It is the company’s policy not to disclose sale prices, said Barbara Koenig, a Wheelock spokeswoman.
Although the 19-acre property across from Bayfront has been eyed for everything from a convention center to a central park, a Wheelock news release indicates the company will be evaluating the property for a mix of residential and commercial uses.
“We understand how important development of this land is as an economic catalyst for the city and as a vital part of its community redevelopment area,” Wheelock principal Jonathan H. Paul said in a prepared statement. “We intend to spend the next several months carefully evaluating the best combination of high-quality residential, commercial and mixed uses that meet market demand and contribute to a prosperous, viable downtown.”
Mayor John Sorey praised both Wheelock and Ronto, saying they are “great folks.” He said nobody knows what the final product will look like.
“I think it’s going to be a design that we’re all going to be excited about,” Sorey said. “They’re smart enough to let the market drive the project. That’s what I anticipate happening.”
The property was approved and slated for the development of a mixed-use project called Renaissance Village in 2005, but the project went nowhere after the 2007-08 economic downturn. Regions Bank obtained the land — and its $47 million in debt — for $100 during a foreclosure auction in November.
Wheelock has no specific plans for the property nor a time frame to begin developing the vacant land, Koenig said.
“Everything is on the table now,” Koenig said. “We’re going to spend as long as it takes to find out what the right mix of residential and commercial use is for the property. It’s a really important piece of property and we’re going to do it right.”
The Ronto Group has a history of building mixed-use properties with shopping, dining and residential components.
The company has redeveloped the TwinEagles golf community. They also built the single-family homes community of Grey Oaks in East Naples and high-rise condos along the Gulf.
“The planning process will focus on creating linkages with the surrounding area, promoting pedestrian activity, fitting into the fabric of downtown Naples, and reinforcing the role of the downtown as a community center and meeting space,” Ronto Executive Vice President Anthony Solomon said in a prepared statement.
Proponents of turning the land into a park said previously that a sale of the land is just beginning of their fight. They said they believed park supporters would have a stronger voice after the sale.
“The issue is, while we might like to have it a park, when you look at the location, I’m not convinced that’s the right place for a park,” Sorey said. “I think its going to be a better benefit for the taxpayers for it be revenue producing.”