Ellen Seigel, Naples City Council member5:36 p.m. ET Jan. 31, 2017
Naples, only 16.4 square miles, is a city of neighborhoods.
While you may be familiar with Port Royal, Old Naples or Park Shore, have you ever heard of “D-Downtown?”
Perhaps you should, because of all the neighborhoods in Naples, the D-Downtown District of Naples is poised to undergo the most significant redevelopment in the next decade.
To prepare you for this, a little history, a geography lesson and some additional acronyms.
The D-Downtown District was created by a Naples City Council resolution in 1998 (revisions in 2003) to encompass roughly the following boundaries: south of Seventh Avenue North; east of Eighth Street South; north of Fifth Avenue South, and west of Goodlette-Frank Road.
It encompasses an area targeted for redevelopment since the 1994 creation of the Community Redevelopoment Agency (CRA), that included railroad right of way, industrial zoning with several vacant lots, many service-related businesses (shoe repair, automotive, etc.) and an increasing residential component.
Naples Square, at the corner of Fifth Avenue South and Goodlette-Frank Road (the former Grand Central Station property), soon will complete its second residential phase and eventually will house 300 luxury condominium units in a mixed-use development consisting of four residential buildings and additional commercial space.
However, while such larger aggregated properties are being redeveloped, redevelopment of smaller properties in the D-Downtown District has been slow.
In April 2016, council, in its role as CRA, engaged an experienced professional planning consulting firm, Calvin, Giordano and Associates (CGA), to analyze existing regulations and current market conditions, and recommend changes to zoning regulations that could incentivize redevelopment.
CGA staff members have traveled the area, engaged in meetings, spoken with stakeholders and met with a group of respected local property owners, development professionals and city staff.
At a recent CRA meeting, CGA presented eight preliminary recommendations:
1. Change the name to Naples Midtown Zoning District.
2. Alter front building setbacks.
3. Allow residential-only buildings on 10th Street North as a permitted use in addition to already allowed mixed-use (commercial and residential) buildings.
4. Establish minimum unit size for an efficiency at 500 square feet from 700 square feet, but limit total number allowed and create square footage for units with three or more bedrooms. Establish parking ratio of 1.5 spaces for efficiency units. Reducing the minimum unit size for an efficiency may assist in providing more affordable units within the area while at the same time, by establishing a maximum percentage overall, will ensure a mix of unit types. The district’s current density limits per acre will remain unchanged.
5. Expand the boundaries of the district to the north, east and south; add additional units to the allowable residential unit pool. The properties south of Fifth Avenue South (such as the vacant St. George and the Dragon) with older buildings and large surface parking lots are prime for redevelopment.
6. Revise standards for building design as a result of eliminating setback zones.
7. Create new parking pool for south expansion.
8. Create a workforce housing floating zone.
Depending on the input and direction given for these preliminary recommendations, it is anticipated that additional changes relating to the detailed regulations may need to be adjusted.
Of these eight recommendations, workforce housing continues to challenge both the consultants and council. Given the extraordinary cost of land within Naples, several council members (this author included) question whether the city can create appropriate incentives to encourage employees such as city employees, hospital staff and teachers to be able to afford to live within the city’s boundaries.
On the other hand, council recognizes the need to attract residents who will live in the city on a 12-month basis in order to sustain necessary retail and professional services year-round.
A joint workshop of the city’s Design Review Board and Planning Advisory Board (PAB) will be scheduled to review and discuss these changes. Following the workshop, CGA staff will return to a meeting of the CRA with final recommendations.
After that meeting and completion of any required changes, the approval and adoption process involving public hearings before the PAB and council will commence.
Additional information is at www.naplesgov.com. Register to receive ongoing information at http://naplesdistrict.cgasolutions.com.
Seigel chairs the Community Redevelopment Agency.