While most of the focus on the beach communities in Southwest Florida has been — rightfully — on the rebuild after Hurricane Ian, a major project is working its way through the regulatory process and is, ever so slowly, moving toward completion.
The project is the redevelopment of the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, a property that traces its history back to the 1880s.
The redevelopment, estimated to cost more than $1 billion, calls for the property to be transformed into a 125-acre resort and residential beachfront development called the Naples Beach Club. This new entity will include a hotel operated by the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and up to 185 luxury condominiums.
The property’s Phoenix-based owner and developer, The Athens Group, has been working on the project since it and New York-based MSD Partners paid $362.3 million for the site in October 2021. There were some early delays caused, in part, because of a neighbor’s lawsuit, but work has been steadily going on for some time now.
For one, construction has begun on the Four Seasons and expected to last a couple more years.
As for other aspects of the project, which includes residences, retail and conference space, the proposals, some tweaked, have won the approval of city boards and commissions in recent weeks — though a few legislative hurdles remain.
Naples City Council is scheduled to vote on a revised plan for residences in late March and plans to tackle changes to the market and conference center in April.
According to a breakdown of the project provided to the Business Observer by The Athens Group, this is where various elements of the project stand:
- The old hotel has been demolished and construction on a new beachside Four Seasons Hotel has begun. The new hotel will include 216 rooms, about 100 less than the previous hotel. It will be the first Four Seasons resort on Florida’s Gulf Coast. To assure construction traffic does not disrupt the community, Athens built a road through the old golf course to keep trucks off neighborhood streets and the noise level down. The hotel is expected to open in early 2025.
- North of the hotel on the Gulf side will be three buildings with 58 luxury residences. At a Feb. 8 meeting, the Naples’ Planning Advisory Board voted 5-1 to recommend that city council approve the “slightly” revised site plan for the residential property. The changes cut the density of the residences by reducing the number of units, provides better "view corridors" to the Gulf of Mexico and reduces traffic. Council members were scheduled to make the final decision on the proposals at a March 22 meeting.
- Athens redesigned the project’s market square and conference center across Gulf Shore Boulevard North from the hotel and next to the golf course, based upon input from Four Seasons. The redesign calls for the old hotel’s conference center to be demolished and two new buildings — the market square and a clubhouse — to be built. This is so there will be “less mass and overall height along with more open space and less lot coverage.” The market square, next to the golf course, will include a restaurant with a bowling alley, gourmet grab and go and the resort’s spa. It’s seen as a community gathering place. A ballroom for meetings and events will also be built. Naples’ Design Review Board unanimously approved the proposed improvements at a Feb. 22 meeting and on March 8, the planning advisory board voted 5-1 to send the revised plan to city council for approval in April.
- Some 104 of the property’s nearly 125 acres will be subject to a perpetual conservation easement that will keep the golf course area as recreation and open space. The easement agreement was signed in May and will be recorded when the building permits are issued for the first phase of the project, expected later this year.
- Athens’ goal is to finish this first phase of the development by the end of 2025. That will include the hotel, market square and clubhouse, 18-hole golf course and the three beachside residential buildings. No timeline was provided for the second phase of the project, which will consist of additional condominium buildings approved by the city in 2019 as part of the overall development.
“The developers have continued to show a true commitment to their neighbors and the Naples community overall by making changes in the project that benefit the community, working hard to avoid any neighborhood disruptions during construction, providing post-Hurricane Ian support with dollars, labor and materials to neighbors, River Park residents, the city and the county,” says Jay Newman, Athen's chief operating officer.
“Most recently, The Athens Group has been working with the city and the county to use the Naples Beach Club's construction access road through the golf course for trucks involved in the sand berm project on the city’s beaches, which will significantly minimize the impact to the neighbors near the beach.”