NAPLES, Fla. — Next week marks six months since Hurricane Ian and since the storm, Fox 4 has been committed to following every single change that rebuilding brings to life in Southwest Florida as we know it.
Tonight we take that commitment one step further. We're not just talking about what Southwest Florida could look like in the future, but actually seeing the plans, with a new series we are kicking off called Blueprint Back.
As time goes on, Fox 4's Nadeen Yanes will be speaking to the leaders in the communities where you live, asking what their top priorities are in the building process. We will then show you how they plan to get it all done, from the conceptual designs to the renderings to the blueprints back.
We start this journey in the city of Naples.
During the last moments of the Naples Pier still standing, waves were whipping the 18-foot-high icon of spring breaks and endless summers, before Hurricane Ian took it down. Once the storm passed, one-third of it was gone.
And now, this never-before-seen sonar image shows the pier perfectly submerged on the bottom of the gulf, and with it drowned memories dating back to when the pier was first built in 1888.
Locals have fond memories of walking the pier and watching the sunset. These memories of more than 130 years are why all of the rebuilding projects on that long list need to be done.
"Rebuilding the Naples Pier is a high-profile project, indeed," says City Manager Jay Boodheshwar, seeing it as a healing point for the city.
And conceptual designs are already drawn up, seeing the blueprint back for the pier. Boodheshwar adds, "The idea here is how can we do better and so we have an opportunity to raise the height of the pier… 3 feet would have made a difference. Also creating kind of a two-tiered structure where you can have people in the lower part fishing, and you can have people who don't want to deal with the fishing on Sunday. We have everybody coexisting halfway together and enjoying the pier."
Another project for the pier is the beaches. Of the 40 beach access points in the city, only about half are open and 9 beach ends, or roads, that lead up to the beach access points still have significant damage.
A seasonal resident, Charmaine Elkins told us what she would like to see rebuilt, "The sand dunes, definitely. Some of the extra debris, although it's 'out of the way' still kind of looks a mess." In many cases, Fox 4 has found entire roads had collapsed. The City Manager says that their staff alone is not enough and they will have to hire contractors, saying the damage to the North is much more than expected and the resources are limited.
Twenty-four million dollars in tourism tax money will soon go towards an emergency dune restoration project, in conjunction with Collier County at four beach accesses that includes Lowdermilk Park, Horizon Way, 10th Ave S, and 17th Ave.
As for the timeline for all of the beaches, access points, and the Naples Pier, it will be at least another 18 months. The pier will have to reopen in phases but they will need public input on the final design. A survey just launched for residents. You can take the survey by visiting this link: NaplesGov.com
Also at the top of the list of 300 projects for the city is its ongoing stormwater management improvement called the Beach Outfall Project. This is designed to help drain flooded streets faster, going through a filter system to better clean the water before getting dumped back into the gulf. To learn more about this project that is already in progress, visit NaplesGov.com/beachoutfall
After asking the City Manager why our beaches and pier are such a big priority for the city, his response was, "it's part of the Naples identity so you know Naples is a known brand and you know the beautiful white sandy beaches. You know, it's almost kind of like a religious experience to watch people leaving their homes with their chairs, walking to the beach to catch the sunset. That's why we're so focused."