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The city’s recent unveiling of new street banners represents only a glimpse of what citizens will see coming to Naples Design District.   

“Later on this month, the CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) will consider a design proposal to design the Design Walk, the pilot Design Walk, which is meant to be an example in the public realm of what this area of town can look like—the activation of alleys, the refurbishing of sidewalks, things like that. So that’s the next thing that’s on our horizon that will be a physical manifestation of what’s to come,” said Naples City Manager Jay Boodheshwar.   

Mayor Teresa Heitmann and Naples Design District President Elizabeth Kurtz unveiled the new banners during a Sept. 29 ceremony and stepped into a bucket truck to hang one of the banners on a streetlight pole in front of The Collective design hub on 10th Street South.   

In addition to identifying the Design District, the new centennial banners celebrate the history of the railroad in the city, which commemorates the 100th anniversary of its incorporation this year. Naples Depot Museum is on the southern edge of the Design District, which stretches from Fifth Avenue South to Seventh Avenue North and U.S. 41 to Goodlette-Frank Road.   

In 2021, the city contracted with Miami-based urban planner DPZ CoDesign to help create a Naples Design District master plan with proposals for transformative development or redevelopment ideas. The city’s vision eventually could create a walkable local district as well-known as nearby Fifth Avenue South or Third Street South.   

“What this area of town represents is a continuing rebirth of the city,” Boodheshwar said. “This is an area that has needed some attention for quite some time, and the focus that the city has put on this area of town should represent their priorities for making sure the entire community is always fresh and always being positioned to be rejuvenated, to be refreshed. And, so, this is a good representation of that.”   

One of the most prominent and visible additions to the Design District is the new Gulfshore Playhouse, under construction on the corner of Goodlette-Frank Road and First Avenue South.    

“That is going to really begin to take shape here in the upcoming months,” Boodheshwar said. “Later this month, as well, the CRA and Council will be considering awarding a contract to build the garage, the public garage that will service this area. So that’s something else exciting that’s going to begin coming out of the ground here.”   

The land is being cleared now directly behind the future Gulfshore Playhouse for the more than 360-space public parking garage on First Avenue South. Construction on the garage is targeted to begin this fall, said Anita Jenkins, administrator for the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency.   

“In addition to the garage and the theater, there are a number of corridor improvements that the city and the CRA will be undertaking in the next year,” she said.   

For instance, First Avenue South will see improvements for stormwater utilities, parking, landscaping and streetscape. “You’ll notice that First Avenue has not had a lot of improvements over the years. The redevelopment hasn’t demanded the improvements,” Jenkins said. “But as we witnessed in our summer rains and last year, we do need stormwater improvements throughout the area. Our CRA board has been supportive and making those changes and getting that design underway for you.”   

Another street corridor that will be improved is 10th Street from Seventh Avenue to U.S. 41 East. “The changes will vary on that corridor,” Jenkins said. “You don’t need a lot of parking changes south of Central, but you do need some stormwater improvements, utility improvements. And we’ll be doing parking north of Central, parking improvements and stormwater utility improvements on 10th. The last piece of that project will be for 12th Street, and that’s a very small block between Central and First, and we needed to improve the utility loop in that area, and we have an opportunity to do more parking in that area as well.”   

Naples City Council, sitting as the CRA, has directed staff to start implementing the Design District’s master plan. Those improvements will be under design soon with opportunities for public input during design workshops within the next year, Jenkins said.   

“The next project that we are looking at is a pilot project for the Design Walk,” she said. “The Design Walk, as you’ll remember, was a major idea that came out of the master plan. We’re going to test it and see how successful we can be at creating a design for an alley walk project. The improvements will be for the public land, the public rights of way in the alleys of these projects.”   

The idea is to improve the aesthetics of the alleys in the Design District with elements, such as new pavement, landscaping and lighting. The goal is to start in the block between First and Central that has the most public right of way, Jenkins said.   

“You have more public lands and public space to work within that area to see if we can come up with a plan that will actually work and we can continue to improve the other alleys as we go forward,” she said.   

The CRA also is working on a project to solve parking demands on Third Avenue North by using land near the Florida Power & Light site to create additional parking spaces within the right of way on the eastern edge of the district. Expect also to hear more about another pilot project that will test the use of a unique micro-transit system in the city.   

“That idea is to have an electric vehicle, a small vehicle that fits the character and the vision of the city of Naples to keep our small-town charm and our small-town feel. Everything that the CRA does is continuing to support that vision of our residents,” Jenkins said. “We want a potential little electric vehicle that fits with the character of the downtown area but can move people from the garages around to your businesses, and to help the residents in the area also move around to your businesses. We anticipate that that will be a fixed route, so you can know when the little shuttle will be popping by and then you could get from here all the way throughout the downtown area—not all the way down to Third Street, but we’ll try to get a route that works in a pilot project that moves you up 10th Street and down Eighth and over to Fifth Avenue and back up so you can visit the important districts of the Community Redevelopment Area.”   

Heitmann, who said she is seeking a second term as mayor, thinks the Design District—which she calls the heart of Naples—brings a new vibrancy and a breath of fresh air, especially for young movers and shakers.   

“My goal is to make sure that this is a wonderful place for the community, for our neighborhoods to visit,” she said. “We always welcome tourists to enjoy all parts of our community, but hopefully the main focus will be that the residents come and that this is their community area.”   

Drawing visual attention to the Design District, the new street banners include three variations devoted to the city’s centennial and others that celebrate art, design, shopping and dining in the district. The creation of the banners represents the private-public partnership behind the Design District, which features businesses and residents working with the city.    

“We designed them, we paid for that, we invested our time into that, and the city paid for the banners to be printed and installed,” said Kurtz, who, in addition to overseeing the Design District, is the marketing coordinator for Kurtz Homes Naples, based in The Collective.   

Representative of what can be accomplished in the Design District is the new District lounge that recently opened in the former location of The Wine Store at Victoria Square off Central Avenue. Its future companion pieces—The Kitchen, The Mini Bar and The Alley—will feature unique hospitality additions in open spaces behind the new lounge.   

For more on the Naples Design District

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