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Visitors brace for departure of historic Naples Beach Hotel as new plans are in store

Naples Beach Hotel
Posted at 8:46 PM, Mar 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-29 08:39:18-04

NAPLES, Fla. — Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club is finishing its last season this year, ending a 75-year run when it’s doors close on May 23.

The Naples City Council is holding a meeting to hear future plans for the resort. Tonight’s meeting is set after several months of debate among city residents about the Athens Group’s plans for the well-known property from the future of the golf course to the tennis center.

It’s a move that has created mixed feelings among many. The Watkins family, owners of the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club, are closing its doors. In their place will be the Athens Group- which plans to destroy the beach hotel and build a five-star 220-room resort, along with "best-in-class" residential condos on both sides of Gulf Shore Boulevard. The recreational amenities would serve the condo owners, as well as hotel guests, and would be available for use by the community at large and other visitors.

For visitors like Sidney Beck, who call Naples home this time of year, it will be a site to miss.

"It's going to be a loss to the community," says Beck. “We’re also sorry on a personal event because this is a lovely spot to stop on our bike trips up and down the road here. We usually stop for the shade. Pre-Covid they used to have free water where you could stop and drink the water and rest. So we’re sorry on both agendas.”

“It’s unfortunate, especially because my wife’s family has been coming down to this beach for years," says Dan Maloney, who happens to be visiting from Indianapolis. "I’ve heard stories of here being 5 or 6-years-old and going out onto the beach here. I hope that people are still going to be able to create those memories, but it is unfortunate that everything is going by the wayside.”

For Dan Maloney, the hotel and area have special meaning to his family. But the move, in his eyes, makes sense for the local economy.

“Makes absolute sense," he says. "You’ve got people that are wanting to move to the area, they have to have homes and places to go to if they want to live in the area. I get it. I think, ultimately, it will spur some positive economic development even if there are some short term hurt feelings. But long term it will probably end up benefiting the community more so.”

Stacy Gaffey-Downing has been coming to Naples for the last 30 years. She says she made the trip down after she heard the hotel would be closing.

“My friend Cheryl here and I just had a Pińa colada because we know it’s coming down because next year I know it will be gone.”

But no matter the outcome — or what may lie ahead in the future — one thing remains the same….

Gaffey-Downing says, “We’ll come back and give them a shot- whoever’s there!”