Naples Design District
Sep 20, 2019 02:42PM
● By Patricia Letakis
BY PATRICIA LETAKIS
Most creative hubs aren’t planned. They are neighborhoods that seem to emerge over time as artists, designers, architects, merchants and restaurateurs establish roots, hang out “open for business” signs, and slowly shape and transform a place into a community where creativity can flourish. That is what’s happening in the Naples Design District—and it’s quite exciting.
Earlier this year, the district was made official. Naples’ main thoroughfare U.S. Highway 41, from 7th Avenue North to 5th Avenue South, and the blocks east to Goodlette Frank Road were designated the Naples Design District. Here Old Florida stucco storefronts that have existed for decades now rub shoulders with newer contemporary architecture boasting clean lines, curved roofs and glass panels. Walk a couple of blocks east and a New Urbanism condo community is sprouting up. Some buildings are already welcoming residents and others are under construction. What’s in motion is a new neighborhood with great promise that’s easily accessible for the pedestrian.
Laura Burns, president of the Naples Design District Board, explains that in the last 10 years, efforts have been made to move initiatives forward. “We are thrilled it has finally materialized and come to fruition,” she says about the decision to officially define the district and the support received from local government and the Community Redevelopment Agency. “We want the community and the tourist to know that the district is here. That the district maintains an eclectic feel and a sense of community is hugely important to us,” she emphasizes.
On a stroll through the neighborhood, you’ll discover just how eclectic the Naples Design District has become. Interior design businesses with upscale retail stores, luxury homebuilders, floral shops and art galleries are most evident. Stylish restaurants, café-bakeries and wine stores lure the culinary curious. Tucked among these vibrant businesses are consignment stores, hair salons and even an animal hospital.
Becky Enzweiler, interior designer and owner of The Striped Cabana and a transplant from Chattanooga, Tennessee, has been part of the design district since 2016. Poring over a floor plan behind her cluttered desk, Enzweiler says that she loves the concept, the growth, and particularly the lower rent. “Everybody gets along,” she says of her neighbors. “We want to make it a destination. Come for the day and shop around.”
Anyone looking for inviting, coastal-inspired home accessories washed in the colors of the sea will find her selection of patio pillows, tables, lamps and chairs inspiring. “I want you to come in and sit on a big white sofa and relax,” the designer says. “We have unique things not seen elsewhere—vintage and coastal pieces in particular.”
Greg Sari is no newcomer to the neighborhood. Co-owner of Garden District, a stylish floral design store and event-planning business, he says, “We’ve been here 12 years, and yeah, we’ve seen the area transition.” He just wishes there were more restaurants.
Describing his business, he says, “We do home installations, which include plants and design pots, orchid installs, silk tree arrangements and personal creating.” Throughout the store are vignettes showcasing arrangements of succulents, orchids and myriad flowers. Beautiful pots, ranging from elegant white porcelain to modern metallic, dazzle on the tables.
Timeless restaurant, with its corner location on U.S Highway 41 and 1st Avenue North, occupies prime real estate. “I thought this was a good location for a restaurant, big windows facing 41,” says chef David Nelson, who when invited to run the kitchen at the MHK Eatery was easily sold on the location.
“The district is up and coming with 850 Central condos and Eleven Eleven Central condos being built and Naples Square condos. The area is transitioning into a walking neighborhood,” explains Nelson.
Timeless may not be the only restaurant in the district, but the modern American gastropub stands out with its hip vibe, cottage-meets-contemporary décor and options that include: dining room seating; a lounge ideal for wine, beer and pizza; outdoor patio tables; and stools at the espresso and coffee bar. Among the favorites on the menu are artisan pizzas and small plates like Wagyu sliders and shrimp tacos.
The southeast corner of the district near Goodlette Frank Road is where the condominiums are rising up and serving as an anchor for the community. Matthew Kragh of MHK Architects has been instrumental in creating a new standard for Naples design here, explains Burns. A more modern, minimalist look and open floor plans are among the design elements. Burns continues to say that in an effort to create a coherent destination, Kragh and the board are working together on decisions that affect public art, landscaping and signage.
Future plans to enhance the Naples Design District include the creation of byways, walkways, blue zones, bicycle lanes and pick-up points for trolleys and Nickel Ride. This will eventually make access to the district easy and safe for pedestrians, Burns points out.
Keeping a finger on the pulse, the Naples Design District Board is forging ahead to make this creative hub one of Naples’ buzziest neighborhoods.
Patricia Letakis is the managing editor at TOTI Media.