Cre­ative Haven

Af­ter years of be­ing in the shad­ows, the Naples De­sign District steps into the lime­light

RSWLiving - - Contents - BY PA­TRI­CIA LETAKIS Pa­tri­cia Letakis is the manag­ing editor at TOTI Me­dia.

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 posh 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.

Clock­wise from top: Coastal-in­spired home fur­nish­ings at The Striped Ca­bana; a plant dis­play at the Gar­den District flo­ral de­sign store; new con­tem­po­rary ar­chi­tec­ture on 1st Av­enue North; Naples Square con­do­mini­ums; the Naples De­sign District’s pedes­trian-friendly streets and shops from an art gallery and home store to a wine shop, restau­rant and in­te­rior de­sign re­tail store.

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