East Naples redevelopment project advances in triangle long targeted for revitalization

Laura Layden
Naples Daily News
Planned East Naples condo-hotel project.

A developer from Florida's east coast is moving ahead with a multimillion-dollar condo-hotel on a long-targeted redevelopment site in Collier County.

A little over a year ago, David Parker lost a fight for county incentives to support the project. That's water under the bridge now, in a market that's only gotten hotter since then.

"We decided to stay the course and reevaluate some things," he said. "All the while, the market has really heated up. And this smoking hot market has more than offset our tax incentive effort." 

The project will be built in the pizza-sliced mini-triangle area of East Naples, at the corner of U.S. 41 East and Davis Boulevard, just outside the Naples city limits.

Previously:

Construction is expected to start by mid-February and take less than two years.

The now-vacant, roughly 2-acre site has a rocky past. There have been several failed attempts by others to redevelop the property — at 1705 and 1807 U.S. 41 East.

Through his affiliates, Parker closed on the land on Dec. 9. County records show the property sold for $8.6 million.

Incentives denied

Proposed East Naples condo-hotel project.

The developer asked for $1.9 million in incentives — in any form — from the county. At the time, Parker estimated it would equal 50% of the property taxes the hotel would pay over its first 10 years, starting in 2024.

An economic analysis shared with the county last year showed the development would create 1,040 new jobs in total and generate about $16.4 million in taxes and fees through 2032, including $7.4 million in property taxes and $5.3 million in tourist development taxes.

Three county commissioners — or a majority — voted against Parker's request, however, questioning the need and purpose for the incentives and arguing their support of incentives could open the floodgates for similar requests from others promising to invest in the community and create jobs, just like him, through private development on privately-owned land.

"Unfortunately, we didn't see eye-to-eye," Parker said.

While he already had the land under contract back then, the commission's vote threw some uncertainty into his project. That's far into the rearview mirror now.

Now, the developer is moving full speed ahead, with permits in hand and sales about to start.

"Good markets have a way of fixing issues and we are in a very good market right now," Parker said.

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A "good buy"

With zoning in place, the developer did not have to seek any additional approvals to build his project.

"It made it a good buy for us," Parker said. 

The development will include 126 hotel rooms and 24 luxury condos, with separate resort-style pools, fitness centers and parking for each side of the operation — and two eateries, including a fine-dining, destination restaurant, open to the guests and owners, as well as local residents and visitors alike.

"We are looking forward to creating something nice for the area, for our residents and for our guests," Parker said. "We are super excited about bringing this project to the Naples market." 

If all goes as planned, construction should wind up by the end of 2023.

The tower will offer two-, three- and four-bedroom residences, ranging from about 1,800 square feet to more than 3,200 square feet.

Pricing hasn't been finalized just yet.

"We will be very competitively priced," Parker said. "I'm surprised at the prices, as they continue to increase. It seems like every 90 days, we are having another justifiable price increase."  

The prices consultants recommended a few weeks ago are easily 10% to 15% lower than what the market will bear today, he said.

"We want to make sure it's priced right," Parker said.

He noted the development's lenders did not have a pre-sale requirement for construction to start.

"Unsolicited offers have come in," Parker said. "We have five contracts we have not accepted or countered. They are very attractive offers." 

Based on market demand in the Naples area, he said it wouldn't surprise him to see the residences sell out within a matter of three months. 

"There is not a lot of product out there," Parker said. "It's a supply and demand issue."

An independent hotel

As for the hotel, it will offer various sized rooms and configurations, including some suites and several rooms that can be adjoined for shared use.

In the early days of the pandemic, Parker said he worried how COVID might impact the demand for his hotel rooms, but not anymore, as Southwest Florida's tourism industry has made a strong comeback. 

"We're pretty bullish on the hospitality space right now," he said. 

So bullish that Parker believes the hotel can thrive without a brand name attached to it.

"After our research, we determined that a flag is not necessary," Parker said. "We are going to do an independent, unique brand of our own." 

The hotel and residences will share the same moniker: The Ellington.

Aerial view of the mini-triangle site for The Ellington.

Suffolk Construction has been tapped to build the project. Parker has worked with the national builder on other projects, with success.

The estimated investment in the project is $110 million. Despite the hefty investment, Parker said he's working on another development he plans to announce soon in Southwest Florida.

When told the development is forging ahead, Collier County Commissioner Penny Taylor said it confirms that commissioners made the right decision in rejecting taxpayer incentives. 

She firmly and passionately argued against providing any county support for the project, saying it wasn't necessary because the once-sleepy area where the property sits has awakened, attracting nearby projects without the need for county incentives. 

"It's always nice to be right," Taylor quipped.

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A head start

To be sure, Parker isn't the only one with faith in the East Naples market.

A long-anticipated project next door is moving ahead.

Longtime developers Jerry Starkey and Fred Pezeshkan, with Real Estate Partners International in Naples, are building the first phase of Metropolitan Naples on land they purchased from the county after winning a competitive bid process to redevelop it more than five years ago.

Aerial view of Metropolitan Naples in East Naples.

The duo closed on the roughly 5-acre property in November 2020.

The land stretches between Davis Boulevard to the north and U.S. 41 East to the south in an area known as the Gateway Triangle for its distinctive shape.

The contract the county signed with Starkey and Pezeshkan will allow them to keep 50 percent of the tax increase they generate on their property for 10 years. 

In the first phase, the developers plan a 15-story condominium, called Aura. The luxury development will have 56 two-, three- and four-bedrooms residences, ranging in price from $1.5 million to more than $6 million.

Metropolitan Naples will also include a mix of restaurants, as well as professional services and retail. 

A special view

According to marketing materials, one of the most unique aspects of Aura will be its 15th-floor infinity pool and fitness center, overlooking Naples Bay, downtown Naples and the Gulf of Mexico. 

Other community features will include indoor and outdoor lounges, a luxurious overnight guest suite, a business center and a large golf putting green. 

Reinaldo Borges, the award-winning principal and CEO of Miami-based Borges Architects + Associates, designed Aura. Over more than 20 years, his firm has designed more than 100 buildings and completed more than $1 billion in projects, according to its website.

A rendering of Aura Naples in East Naples.

Agents are taking reservations for Aura, with some penthouses and other residences already claimed. A sales center is expected to open soon at 365 Fifth Ave. S. in downtown Naples.

Two additional luxury towers are planned for Metropolitan Naples, which will include more residences, restaurants and boutique shops.

Each building would have its own private parking.

More details are still to be announced on the other towers.

The zoning on the property allows for up to 377 residential units, 228 hotel rooms and a maximum of 200,000 square feet of commercial uses, including coffee shops, bars and a movie theater.

The development is designed as a place to live, work and play.

The two redevelopment projects are a long-time in coming — and it will be exciting to see multiple buildings coming out of the ground soon in such a prominent area of the county, Commissioner Taylor said.

It will be interesting to watch how the projects — and the surrounding area — evolve over time, she said.

"It will evolve," Taylor said. "How it's going to evolve I'm not sure."