A major expansion to the Naples Senior Center was approved in a vote by Collier County Board of County Commissioners Tuesday.
When Naples Senior Center opened in 2014, it had 80 members. Now, more than 1,600 people rely on the senior center to support their lives, and the center said that number was more than its current facility could hold. It can expand now, but not everyone in the area is on board.
The Naples Senior Center calls the piece of property between Autumn Oaks Lane and Oakes Boulevard the “perfect location,” but the Oakes Estates Neighborhood Association cites traffic concerns as its biggest fear for the project.
For three years, the center searched for a place to build a new home. Commission approval gives the center the green light to build a 30,000 square foot facility at the location.
“I think this is a great location, and I think, in time in short order, this neighborhood, much like the citizens who were for it, will appreciate having this center in the north corner of their neighborhood,” Commissioner Rick LoCastro said.
When the new facility is built, there will be more room for activities inside and out.
The architect said that’s important, especially during the pandemic.
“This is the only chance some of our seniors, actually many of our seniors, have to enjoy the outdoors in a secure and safe environment,” senior architect Renee Zepeda said.
Some Oakes Estates neighbors are not thrilled with the idea of more people and more traffic near their front doors.
“It’s almost like my private street,” said Scott Ralf, who lives on Autumn Oakes Lane. “I don’t even have a neighbor on the street. At the same time, I am, and there are 20 houses on the street. The traffic will be very easily handled.”
“Undeniably, we are a residential neighborhood, no question about it, and the notion that this project isn’t within a community is preposterous,” Joe Thompson said.
In effort to make its new neighbors comfortable, when necessary, the center will bring in law enforcement to help move traffic along.
The senior center insists it will be a good neighbor to others in the community.
“We have done traffic studies that support the fact that there will be a minimal, if any, traffic impact,” said Dr. Jaclynn Faffer, the president of the Naples Senior Center. “The building will be set back, it won’t be even be noticed with all the landscaping, and we will be good neighbors just as all of their churches are good neighbors.”
In the proposal, Naples Senior Center said its hours will be 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and closed on weekends.
The center does not yet have an exact timeline for the project.