Area residents attended a public meeting Wednesday evening for a proposed high-rise residential tower near Vanderbilt Beach, some out of excitement about the planned project and some in protest.
About 200 people crowded a ballroom in The Ritz-Carlton beach hotel in North Naples to see renderings of the high-rise and ask questions of representatives of Stock Development, whose affiliate, Vanderbilt Holdings LLC, is planning the development.
The building would have 18 stories of residential units above a three-story parking garage. The tower, called One Naples, is planned for the northeast corner of Vanderbilt Beach Road and Gulf Shore Drive.
The development would have 300 residences, but some of them would be in five-story and lower buildings overlooking Vanderbilt Lagoon.
The development also would have a 75-slip marina on the lagoon.
Denise Cobb, a 20-year Collier County resident who lives near Vanderbilt Beach Road and Gulf Shore Drive, said she was thrilled about the project and what it could bring to the community.
“I drive past that corner two or three times a day and have always wondered why wouldn’t anyone do something about those ugly, sometimes abandoned buildings,” Cobb said. “This project is great news for the area.”
Because the area is zoned for much more commercial development than the proposal calls for, Cobb said she is pleased with the plan to build residences.
“Something is going to be built there anyway,” she said. “Why not have permanent residents? It’s better to have that than a commercial area that’ll bring more traffic and congestion.”
Others don't want the area to change.
Pam Cleaveland, who lives off Vanderbilt Drive and Bayside Avenue, said there’s enough construction and traffic congestion with the replacement of two bridges on Vanderbilt Drive.
“Why does Collier County always have to be building?” Cleaveland said. “As it is, neither Vanderbilt Beach nor Wiggins Pass can handle any more people. You can’t walk to Vanderbilt Beach without getting hit by a bicyclist or other people. This area can’t take any more people or traffic.”
A website, stopstockatvanderbilt.com, was created in protest of the development, calling it an “obnoxious eye-sore.”
Vincent Fantegrossi, also a resident of the area, said it’s unfortunate that Wednesday’s community meeting was held in the off-season. Many of his neighbors returned north and are watching the plans unfold from afar, he said.
“This is a dense and large development for such a small area,” he said. “I don’t think this is a project that will enhance the quality of life for residents. The project is oversized. The area has poor walkability as it is. Putting a large high-rise there won’t improve that.”
In addition to the differing opinions on the project, there was uncertainty about what the future might be for some of the area's businesses.
David Jeski, owner of the Beach Store on Vanderbilt-Beach Drive, said his eight-year-old deli and coffee shop might be forced to close.
"I don't know yet," he said. "It depends on what gets approved."
The project includes a coffee shop, but the owner hasn't committed that space to Jeski, he said.
He said the property had been listed for sale for years.
"It was inevitable," he said. "It was just a matter of time."
At the popular Beach Box Cafe, Autumn Rodgers, a partner for the bar and restaurant, said she owns her building on the land where the project is planned and hasn't agreed to leave.
"We are not closing," she said. "They told me it will be at least three to five years until we go anywhere."
The owners of South Bay Realty, a real estate office in the area, sent an email to customers Wednesday night praising the project.
Lesley Garlock, director of operations for South Bay, said her group secured the lone office space included in the new project.
She said the concept for hundreds of condos would improve the area.
"Having a residential community versus commercial would really benefit the area," she said.
Employees at the nearby John R. Woods Properties said they likely would have to find a new office.