Jack Antaramian, developer of The Esplanade, found dead in Naples
A prominent developer who built exclusive Gulfside Cape Marco and the bayfront Esplanade and helped rebuild Fifth Avenue South and the greater Naples area was found dead Monday afternoon, police said.
Jack Antaramian, 73, was found dead at 1:34 p.m. Monday at the Naples Bay Resort, the property he had a court battle over with his business partners. The Naples Police Department is investigating his death, but "the circumstances surrounding his death do not appear suspicious at this time," the department said. Police declined further comment.
"This was a real shock," Naples Councilman Bill Barnett said. "We didn't hang around together, but he always supported my campaigns. He had some great kids and he had his wife, Mona. They are neat people. I feel so bad for them right now."
Antaramian leaves his second wife, Mona, and two teenage children. He had a son, David, and a daughter, Zahra.
Antaramian's death comes at a time when he was facing bankruptcy and reorganization issues in a legal battle with his former partners in the Naples Bay Resort project. A bankruptcy judge didn't approve Antaramian's reorganization plan last year. The decision would have allowed other competing plans to come to the court in the coming days.
Litigation against Antaramian has been going on for years between Antaramian and his business partners. The partners wanted to settle, but Antaramian refused.
In August, Antaramian Properties filed for Chapter 11 protection with $20 million in debt.
"Jack was a tough businessmen, but he was ultimately fair," said Barnett, a former Naples mayor. "He did a lot for the Naples community whether you liked him or you didn't like him. I always liked Jack. I will say that. I'm sure he had his people against him. Whenever you see lawsuits like that, you know there are people on the other side. But I had a decent relationship with him."
Naples officials credit Antaramian and his mixed-use designs for revitalizing downtown Naples. Antaramian first visited Marco Island in 1970 and fell in love with the community.
"The water is so pristine, so clear on Marco Island. It was one of the greatest places to fish. I'd get up at 2 a.m. with the tide and fish for snook under the bridge," Antaramian told The News-Press when he was inquiring about developing downtown Bonita Springs.
Antaramian's storied overhaul of the Colony Court building at 405 Fifth Ave. S. in Naples started it in the mid-1990s. It turned a sluggish downtown thoroughfare into a vibrant, postcard-perfect setting of posh shops and bistros lavish with palm trees and Mediterranean architecture.
Today, high-end boutiques, art galleries, real estate and business offices and diverse restaurants line Fifth Avenue South. Antaramian said he has specifically designed many of his projects with a village atmosphere, including homes over shops, a concept familiar in Massachusetts, where he grew up.
On Marco Island, Antaramian's developments include Gulfside Cape Marco and the bayfront Esplanade. Antaramian and his Naples-based Antaramian Development Group had plans to redevelop downtown Bonita Springs, but those fell through because of the recession in 2008. He originally had plans to develop the city-owned Bamboo Village Mobile Home Park property straddling the Imperial River across from the city's $10 million Riverside Park improvements.
Antaramian was also an active member of the community. His various causes included the Marco Island Charter Middle School, YMCA, American Cancer Society, Hospice of Naples, Community School in Naples and the David Lawrence Center. Antaramian used to fund the fireworks on Marco.