Joseph Cranney , firstname.lastname@example.org; 239-213-6035 Published 12:02 p.m. ET May 15, 2017
By one vision, Fifth Avenue South in downtown Naples ought to be even more urban, with the installation of metered on-street parking spaces that will increase the turnover of the area’s shoppers and diners.
But despite a recognized need to free up congestion in the city’s busiest commercial district, Naples leaders on Monday agreed that charging for parking would be one step beyond the character of the street that has long been considered the bedrock of the area’s small-town charm.
The Naples City Council during Monday’s workshop rejected a proposal to explore metered parking on Fifth Avenue, instead endorsing the city's previous plans to buy land and build another downtown parking garage.
Free parking for Fifth Avenue’s roughly 400 public on-street spaces, some council members said during a brief discussion in the non-voting meeting, is part of what makes the avenue distinct from other main streets in Florida.
“Our free parking is famous,” Councilman Sam Saad said.
Councilman Reg Buxton had asked the council to discuss metered parking based on a suggestion from Andres Duany, the Miami architect who led an effort to redesign Fifth Avenue in the 1990s.
Duany returned to Naples last month and said the city ought to charge for parking to prevent local employees from leaving their cars on the street all day.
Buxton said he wanted the council to discuss the issue to show the public that the city wouldn’t support it.
“The reason I did this is for us to look at it and decide we don’t need any of those kinds of things,” Buxton said. “And to let the public know and for us to tell ourselves that we need a garage.”
To build a garage, the city is eyeing property owned by Hoffmann Commercial Real Estate at the intersection of Fourth Avenue South and Fourth Street South, but the council hasn't been presented plans for the purchase. The second of the city's two downtown garages opened in 2009 and cost nearly $9 million.
More than 1,100 public parking spaces are available on Fifth Avenue, according to a 2013 study by the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District, including nearly 700 parking garage spaces.
Jim Smith, president of the Fifth Avenue BID, said his group endorsed the council’s rejection of metered parking.
“For right now, we’re good with what we have,” he said.