Elizabeth Pircio, a resident of Barefoot Pelican in North Naples, talks about her concerns about the proposed One Naples project. She has been many concerns, including the loss of her water and sunset views.
Stock Development has a story to tell about One Naples.
The Naples-based developer has plans for a series of by-invitation-only community meetings to tell that story.
The story? Plans for the multimillion-dollar mixed-use project one block from Vanderbilt Beach in North Naples have changed for the better — and the developer believes the revised plans are something the company — and the community — can be proud of for years to come.
“We really believe we have a good story to tell,” said Claudine Leger-Wetzel, Stock’s vice president of sales and marketing.
Not everyone thinks so.
The first two community meetings on Friday brought mixed reactions from neighbors. Some like the new vision, while others don’t, saying it will ruin their way of life.
A total of eight meetings are planned, each one targeted at specific groups of neighbors.
“It’s an opportunity to show our vision for the project,” Leger-Wetzel said. “We’ve really not had the opportunity.”
The voluntary show-and-tell events come ahead of the required Neighborhood Information Meeting the developer must hold before the project can be considered by the county’s planning commission and voted on by county commissioners. That mandatory meeting will likely happen in March.
A rezoning and growth plan amendment will need to be approved for the project before it can get built.
As One Naples continues to advance, staunch opponents argue it hasn’t changed enough since the unveiling of the first concept — and it’s still too intense for the neighborhood. That includes Buzz Victor, a North Naples resident and commercial developer, who has started a nonprofit and launched a website, SaveVanderbiltBeach.com, to fight the development as proposed.
Victor describes the project as an “outrageous overreach,” saying what’s planned at the nearly 6-acre site — including high-rise residential towers — is something you’d see built in New York, not Naples.
“Overall, it’s just a project that is beyond the scale of what it should be,” he said.
Others agree. More than 300 people have registered to receive project updates through the website since it went live a few weeks ago.
Over the past two weeks, the civic organization has raised $9,000 toward a war chest, Victor said, which will be used to hire attorneys and experts who can help “cause Stock Development to rethink and redesign” the project.
“I’m having signs and T-shirts printed, as we speak,” Victor said a few days ago.
He also plans to start a Facebook page.
Victor respects the developer Brian Stock, co-owner and CEO of Stock Development, and considers him a quality developer, he said, but what’s proposed is unreasonable and unacceptable for many reasons.
The requested deviations and variations from county code, he said, would make it too visible from the street, creating what he describes as a canyon effect.
Naples-based developer Stock Development has revised its plans for a mixed-used project dubbed One Naples.
Stock is aware of the grassroots effort led by Victor, but the developer has received a lot of positive feedback since sending more than 5,000 informational flyers out to neighbors, inviting them to attend one of its community meetings to learn more about the re-imagined project, Leger-Wetzel said.
The flyers generated more inquiries about the timeline for the project and more interest in purchasing the residences than it did negative comments, she said.
“Honestly, it’s a lot more positives, and honestly, people want to know when they can move in,” Leger-Wetzel said.
The developer recognizes there’s no way to make everyone happy and that most people don’t like change, she said, but the company’s leadership and the project team believes they’ve come up with the best development proposition for the property after years of working on it.
“We are a family-owned business,” Leger-Wetzel said. “We live here. We work here and we give back to the community. We have 365 employees here. Our pure interest is in doing the right thing on this piece of property.”
While many neighbors have raised concerns about the height of the towers, she points out that tall buildings can already be built at the site under its current C-3 commercial zoning.
With such valuable property, it was only a matter of time before it was developed by someone, Leger-Wetzel said, and most neighbors she’s heard from like that Stock is the developer because he’s local and listening to their concerns.
Making it ‘right’
Stock’s vision for the property has changed quite a bit since the developer shared its first version of the luxury project with the surrounding community back in May 2017.
The developer put the project on hold and went back to the drawing board after facing some opposition and hearing some neighborhood concerns about height, density and the congestion the project might cause on roads and beaches.
Stock held dozens of meetings with homeowner groups to hear out the concerns and to answer questions about the project before bringing it back to life.
“We have done our best to incorporate all of those comments in the current plan, as it has evolved. We’ve really had some good conversations and some productive meetings and it has brought us to this point.” said Keith Gelder, a vice president of land with Stock Development.
Plans have been revised with a “vision to do the property right,” Leger-Wetzel said.
The new vision includes two high-rise condominium towers, instead of one. The towers won’t be as tall as the one initially envisioned — and there won’t be as many residences at the development.
Each tower will stretch 16 stories, over two floors of parking — giving them added height. They’d have 75 condominiums a piece.
The developer says having two towers, rather than one, will allow for improved visibility, light and air movement between buildings, which will all benefit the neighborhood.
With the changes, the total number of residences has dropped to 240, including the five-story condominium buildings that will overlook Vanderbilt Lagoon.
The project could still have up to 25,000 square feet of commercial development, as originally proposed.
At one of the community meetings held Friday afternoon, residents of the mid-rise Barefoot Pelican condominiums and the two-story Vanderbilt Palms, just steps from the project, voiced their many concerns. Those concerns include the loss of their prized views of the Gulf of Mexico and beautiful sunsets due to the proposed height of the buildings at One Naples.
The team for One Naples argued the property Stock plans to build on could have been developed long ago with tall commercial buildings that would have blocked their views and generated much more traffic.
That doesn’t mean Stock doesn’t care about those neighbors who will feel the greatest impact.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Leger-Wetzel. “We feel bad.”
Elizabeth Pircio, a semi-retired accountant who lives in Barefoot Pelican, said she and other residents have so many concerns it’s difficult to prioritize them.
“Right now, it’s just overwhelming,” she said. “There’s traffic. There’s noise and there’s the loss of beach.”
It’s already difficult to find a piece of sand to put a towel on, Pircio said, so she fears it will only get worse if the county allows Stock to add hundreds of new residents to the neighborhood.
Barefoot Pelican, built in the 1980s, has 60 condominiums and it sits behind the proposed development.
“We’ve been here for a long time. We love it here. We love Naples. We love the beach. We love the sunsets. It’s nice and peaceful and quiet here. We’ll lose quite a bit of that I think,” Pircio said.
Getting out of her gated community is already difficult, she said, and One Naples will only put more cars on the already busy roads.
“I don’t know where these cars are going to go because Vanderbilt Beach Road is only two lanes,” Pircio said. “And already we’ve had so many near accidents.”
Traffic often backs up, as cars line up to get into the Vanderbilt Beach parking lot heavily used by beach-goers.
The area isn’t just busy with cars. There are walkers, joggers and bicyclists to worry about, including mothers with babies in strollers, Pircio points out.
She hopes that county leaders will listen to and consider her community’s point of view before approving such a massive project, she said.
“We are hoping that we can be part of this process and that it is not going to be jammed down our throats,” Pircio said.
So does Steven Valdivia, a retired police officer who owns two condos in Vanderbilt Palms and one in Barefoot Pelican. He said he and his wife bought the unit at Barefoot Pelican after learning about the One Naples project, but they’ll still lose their way of life, the same way they would have if they hadn’t moved.
He said he knew development was inevitable at the corner, but he never envisioned one as intrusive as One Naples. Doctor’s orders brought him here, he said, with expectations of having a quieter way of life where he could watch beautiful sunsets and put his feet in the sand.
“The peace and tranquility appears to be at an end,” he said.
There needs to be progress, Valdivia said, and Stock has to make a profit, but he hopes to see the project revised to make it more reasonable.
“Somewhere in the middle is where we need to meet,” he said. “We give a little. They give a little.”
It’s critical to get the project right, Valdivia said, because of its lasting impacts.
“This is going to happen once,” he said. “It’s got to be done right. There’s no redo here.”
Stock plans to make significant community improvements that will not only benefit the project, but the neighborhood around it, Gelder said.
Those community improvements will include everything from new bike paths and sidewalks to lush landscaping and better street lighting.
As for traffic, the developer has been working closely with the county’s transportation department to look for ways to make operational changes that will promote safety and ease congestion for everyone, which could include a round-about or technology upgrades that can alert drivers if beach parking is full before they get to the garage, Gelder said.
Stock recently collected new traffic data on Vanderbilt Beach Road and surrounding roads “to paint a better picture of traffic activity,” Gelder said, which will be helpful in determining the right traffic-taming solutions for the neighborhood.
Talks with the county are in the early stages, so the developer isn’t ready to discuss any possible solutions in detail just yet.
A traffic impact statement Stock Development filed with the county estimates One Naples will generate 3,029 more trips to and from the property a day.
The project would have several access points and Southbay Drive will remain open to the public, even if it’s taken over by the developer.
The existing zoning allows for a variety of uses on the property including gas stations, bars, drugstores and movie theaters, as well as shopping centers. Such uses, the developer argues, could generate twice the traffic on Vanderbilt Beach Road as One Naples.
The developer argues the project won’t be out of character for the neighborhood either.
Nearby buildings include the 13-story Ritz-Carlton sitting over parking, and the Remington at Bay Colony and Trieste, both stretching 21 stories.
“There are nine high-rises that are 20 stories or greater within a half mile,” Gelder said.
Stock Development bought 3.55 acres of waterfront property for $19.7 million in July 2017 for the development and it has cobbled together more land since then, with 100% of it now under its control.
To accommodate the design of One Naples, the developer wants to change the property’s commercial-only zoning to mixed-used planned development, or MPUD, allowing for a more compact, walkable housing and retail development.
The project will also require a small-scale growth plan amendment, which will need county and state approvals.
“It’s a unique property with unique characteristics that don’t necessarily fit some of the definitions of the code,” Gelder said.
The project will be highly amenitized, with pools, fitness centers, fire pits, cabanas and its own marina. Prices for the new condos are expected to range from $1.5 million to $10 million.
Stock filed its development application with the county in October. Various county departments are still reviewing the project.
“We are getting comments across the board and making good progress through that process,” Gelder said.
The first public hearing before the planning commission is tentatively scheduled for June.
County commissioners are expected to vote on the project in September.
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