Condos, community center meet pushback in East Naples’ Lakewood neighborhood

Reporter: Michelle Alvarez Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

People in the Lakewood neighborhood of East Naples are pushing back against a proposed “neighborhood fitness and community center.”

The project includes a 30,000-square-foot recreational community center by Starability, a local organization that works with people with disabilities.

This rendering shows a preliminary concept rendering for STARabilitiy’s proposed center.

“The committee has labeled this what it isn’t,” said Lakewood resident Pat Lago. “It’s not a community center for the community.”

“STARability Foundation is Collier County’s only privately funded nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of individuals ages 14 and older with intellectual and developmental disabilities through community-based programs focused on vocational training, continuing education, teamwork, social engagement and community involvement. STARability Foundation has requested a Conditional Use permit to develop a two-story state-of-the-art facility, with a maximum of up to 30,000 square feet on a portion of the existing Lakewood Country Club Golf Course. The new center would be located on the site of the now inactive clubhouse, and within the footprint of the pool and tennis courts. We are not seeking for the property to be rezoned nor are there plans to develop residential units on the site. The new location would allow STARability to offer its life-transforming programs to a growing number of Collier County residents who need it,” said Karen Govern, the CEO of STARability Foundation.

“Starability, I think, is a great organization; they have a great mission statement, and they do so much good in the county and southern Lee County,” said Charles Salyer, president of Lakewood Community Services. “We cannot say anything but positive thoughts for them, and we support them; we just don’t support a commercial building, 30,000 square feet in a residential community.”

Mary Flaminio says she’s lived at Lakewood Villas for 11 years and likes the idea of a quiet neighborhood.

“I think we’re all concerned about the traffic issues and having such a large building in our neighborhood,” Flaminio said. “As they’re saying, it’s a neighborhood and community center, but it’s really not because no one in our neighborhood or community can use it.”

The site would be located at the southwest corner of Lakewood Boulevard and Boca Ciega Drive, within the Lakewood Country Club.

“Currently, there’s a tennis court, a swimming pool and a country club building that hasn’t been used in six or seven years, but we use the swimming pool,” Salyer said.

There are also plans in the works for new condos, which residents in the area want nothing to do with.

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