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Although the Naples community got its first look Wednesday night at the draft master plan for the city’s Design District, work to transform the neighborhood between U.S. 41 and Goodlette-Frank Road will be years in the making. 

“You start working tomorrow and you wait 20 years,” said Galina Tachieva, the managing partner of DPZ CoDesign, during the Design District plan’s unveiling at Fleischmann Park’s community center.  

The city contracted with the Miami-based urban planner to create a new vision for the 41-10 Design District, a more than 200-acre swath stretching south from Seventh Avenue North to Fifth Avenue South. DPZ, short for Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co., is the architectural firm led by Andrés Duany that created the master plan for Fifth Avenue South in the early 1990s.  

Naples City Councilmember Ray Christman said the 20-year time span Tachieva estimates is on target, especially when looking at the changes that occurred on Fifth Avenue between 1994—when DPZ’s master plan was completedto two decades later in 2014 and even nearly another decade beyond.

“Look at how Fifth Avenue changed in that 20-year period,” Christman said. “It’s something to remember how a plan can, in fact, be implemented, not perfectly, not fully, but implemented and an area can change. Some people would say not always for the better, but I think in the case of Fifth Avenue, certainly, most people can agree that it’s a far better place today than it was in 1994. So, the same thing can happen with 10th Street.” 

A short-term priority in DPZ’s urban redesign plan envisions repurposing the Design District’s interior alleys between avenues as well as other empty spaces to create new uses, both temporary and permanent. This mostly unused outdoor space could be transformed into areas for dining, performances, artwork and other public uses such as food trucks, gardens and a Design Walk that could meander through the district. The goal is to make the district more active and attractive for young people and the young at heart, Tachieva said. 

To achieve the Design Walk, DPZ suggests establishing a special overlay zoning district and evaluating and relaxing current Downtown District zoning to accommodate the Design Walk. Funding options could include grants, Small Business Association programs and pooling district shareholders by implementing a business improvement district similar to what operates on Fifth Avenue.  

Mid-term priorities suggested by DPZ include building parking garages and considering in-fill development to create mixed-use and workforce housing. Also mentioned were traffic calming steps for 10th Street and the re-evaluation of 41-10 and Four Corners to promote multimodal and pedestrian connectivity. 

Long-term options proposed by the consultant include the redevelopment of George Washington Carver Apartments off 10th Street to increase its capacity for affordable housing and beautify the residences by adding awnings, porches, pergolas and gardens. The addition of comprehensive street lighting and pedestrian amenities in the district also is a proposed goal. 

When the process was initiated last year, Christman was hoping for a vision, not just a plan from DPZ. He said the vision presented this week is what he had hoped to see.  

“I think they’ve done that. I really do,” he said. “My gut feeling was that in the 10th Street Design District we have a unique, mixed-use area that was different than Fifth Avenue and Third Street but incredibly important to the future of this town. But we needed a plan and a vision to give us something to shoot for and I think we’ve gotten it. They’ve done their job. Now, the work is before us in the city to take this and go somewhere.”  

Anita Jenkins, who started two months ago as the administrator of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, polled the scores of community members in attendance Wednesday night by asking for a show of hands regarding priorities for different aspects such as traffic, housing, drainage, infrastructure and repurposing alleyways in the district. “I think it was a good representation of the priorities that the community has for different topics and themes,” she said. “I think it was a good measure of that.”

The potential development of new housing and improvements to infrastructure drainage and landscaping will take years to fully implement, Christman said. “I think we need to put the template that will guide all this, which really has to deal with land-use regulations and zoning, in place in the next 12 months to continue the momentum,” he said. “Also, development is occurring so rapidly in this area already, so you don’t want the horse to leave the barn before you can even begin to think about this stuff, so time is of the essence from that standpoint.” 

Christman said the city will continue the implementation process with stakeholders in a more focused way. “I think we need to go beyond this single community meeting tonight, which has been very well attended with great input, and have more focused meetings with smaller groups of stakeholders in the 41-10 area, property owners who have got to be excited, positive and collaborative in this process; retailers, residents and to talk through what’s envisioned here in terms of these recommendations and to see what kind of support they might have for it or other ideas they might have,” he said. 

By this time next year, Christman said the city and the CRA will need to identify the action steps they want to take and take those actions. “And that will include changes to our zoning code and regulatory changes,” he said. 

The next meeting in the Design District vision process is 9 a.m. April 25, when DPZ presents the draft master plan to the CRA Advisory Board in City Council Chambers. Then, the consultant will present the draft to the CRA board on May 12. “They’ll take all those comments back and they’ll finalize this plan and then they’ll take that back to the CRA board on June 9 for the board to accept it, adopt it, take some action on it. So, those are the next steps,” Jenkins said. 

All meetings are open to the public and posted on the website. 

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