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Plan to guide development in East Naples seeks more commercial, green space

Patrick Riley
Naples Daily News

More restaurants, green space and walkable neighborhoods. Fewer car washes, gas stations, fast-food joints and warehouses. That is part of the vision for East Naples, according to a new community development plan for the area.

Collier County commissioners voted unanimously to accept the recently completed East Naples Community Development Plan and direct staff to begin implementing its strategies.

"This is just our beginning," Commissioner Donna Fiala, whose district includes much of East Naples, said before the commission vote Tuesday. "This is a starting point and I want us to ... have a plan in place like the Golden Gate area. Yeah, their master plan is just outstanding, and it covers everything. And that's our goal."

The East Naples plan was put together with the help of county staff, consultants and residents to deliver an identity to the rapidly growing area and draw businesses community members would like to see there. It builds on a 2018 study of the U.S. 41 East corridor and included a survey, stakeholder meetings and public workshops earlier this year.

More:Collier to hold public workshop seeking input for East Naples Community Development Plan

"The plan that's before you today is a community plan that reflects the overall vision for development and redevelopment within the East Naples area," Michele Mosca, a planner for the county, told commissioners. "And it reflects the consensus of the participants involved."

The core study area roughly reaches from the intersection of Collier Boulevard and Radio Road south past the U.S. 41 East and Collier Boulevard intersection. It stretches west until it almost reaches Bayshore Drive and Airport-Pulling Road. The plan’s so-called area of influence reaches beyond the core area to incorporate even more East Naples communities.

A map shows the study area and area of influence of the East Naples Community Development Plan.

Among the plan's key takeaways is that the area would benefit from better transportation options, including walking and biking. It also found "a desire in the community for more diverse and quality commercial establishments." 

The area, the plan's authors wrote, is "underserved" when it comes to non-residential development with only 11% of current square footage built as non-residential compared to unincorporated Collier which has a 15% share. 

"This plan looks at approaches to increase the share of non-residential development by focusing on increasing desired commercial and other uses that can be paired with commercial for mixed-use development," the plan's authors wrote.

The East Naples area, however, faces some potential limitations to adding more commercial uses, including limited roadway connections between neighborhoods and commercial corridors, low population density and a significant seasonal population, with about 60% of the total households deemed to be seasonal, according to the plan.

Residents there want to limit gas stations, self-storage facilities, car washes and fast-food restaurants. They want to see more restaurants and green space, among other things. 

Design, the plan suggests, is a "critical component of desirable future development for the community." That includes buildings set back from the roadway with landscaping; a potential range of heights, "from one-story to low multi-story, being mindful of concerns about overbuilding;" and walkable developments. 

"Preferred implementation measures include more moderate approaches such as a marketing campaign to promote the area and incentives, such as fee reductions/waivers and expedited permitting," the plan states.

When it comes to affordable housing "some community members were concerned about adding more affordable housing to the area" while "others saw affordability and value of the area (what you get for what you pay) as an asset," the plan's authors wrote.

More:See the full East Naples Community Development Plan

Close to half of the attendees at the second public workshop said they "would be in favor to some degree" of a recycling drop-off center in the East Naples area "if it had supplemental design standards," according to the plan. The current drop-off center serving East Naples needs to find a new location due to an expiring lease, the plan's authors wrote.

The plan highlighted three different sites along the U.S. 41 East corridor where more commercial uses could be fostered: U.S. 41 East at Naples Manor, the U.S. 41 East and Rattlesnake Hammock Road intersection and the Towne Centre, a large open strip commercial mall on U.S. 41 East near Palm Drive.

A "moderate" build-out scenario, the most preferred by community members, at each site could add an estimated 1.5 million square feet of commercial and office development, bumping the area's share of non-residential development from 11% to 12-13%. 

The moderate scenario includes multi-floor mixed use — ground floor commercial, upper floor office/residential, and a maximum of three floors — and ground floor commercial. 

At U.S. 41 East near Naples Manor the plan suggests, among other things, redesigning the roadway as a "multi-way boulevard, moving higher-speed traffic to center lanes and lower-speed traffic to side lanes with a high degree of access and parking." Side and center lanes would be separated by a median containing a protected multi-use pathway with trees. 

A rendering from the East Naples Community Development Plan shows what the area of U.S. 41 East at Naples Manor could look like under the "moderate" concept.

Spaces along street frontage should be filled in with buildings that "hug lot edges to support walkability," according to the plan. And gas stations could be designed "backwards," placing fuel pumps at the rear of the site and the store at the front along the roadway, making it "easily approachable by pedestrians and cyclists." 

The plan proposes bike lanes with "buffer zones instead of conventional painted lanes" at the sites at U.S. 41 East/Rattlesnake Hammock Road and Towne Centre. It also suggests wider sidewalks at U.S. 41 East/Rattlesnake Hammock Road and "enhanced street crossings with adjusted signal timing" to help pedestrians. 

A rendering from the East Naples Community Development Plan shows what the intersection of U.S. 41 East and Rattlesnake Hammock Road could look like under a "moderate" build-out scenario.

At Towne Centre, the plan proposes that almost "every block has green space."

Aside from development regulations, the plan states, the county "can implement and promote incentives to encourage desired development, such as development review process incentives and funding tools such as a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District to provide targeted public investments in support of the vision and desired development." 

A rendering from the East Naples Community Development Plan shows what the area of Towne Centre on U.S. 41 East could look like under a "moderate" build-out scenario.

The next steps would include developing a branding and marketing campaign, updating the growth management plan and land development code, and plannng improvements to bicycle and pedestrian connections, roadways and intersections.

The East Naples Civic Association asked commissioners to have staff develop an overlay for U.S. 41 East and put together an oversight committee "to frame future public outreach, communication with stakeholders, and the implementation of the plan." 

The overlay, they wrote, should extend from the north end of East Naples at Davis Boulevard/U.S. 41 East abutting the Bayshore Arts District to San Marco Road.

"We believe that it's the most important kind of focal point as it's, you know, set upon in the plan," Jacob Winge, past president of the association, told commissioners, referring to U.S. 41 East. "Some really important kind of next steps, as far as development, if there's any rezoning, priorities for green space and walking paths, bike riding, and then obviously the major point of commercial need in the area."

Connect with the reporter at patrick.riley@naplesnews.com or on Twitter @PatJRiley.