Row houses down the street from beachfront property. An arts district to rival such better-known destinations in Sarasota and Miami. Even more leisure-time amenities for a new crop of retirees whose active lives scarcely resemble those of their predecessors.
With the region’s red-hot growth showing no signs of slowing, those were just some of the possibilities explored by a recent panel of community leaders sharing their vision of Naples’ future. The theme of the annual Day of Learning, hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples’ Jewish Community Relations Council: “Vibrant Naples – Can it be Sustained?”
“Six months after Hurricane Ian, our community faces a unique opportunity to focus not only on recovery and rebuilding but also innovation and improvement,” said Jeffrey Feld, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples. “Community conversations such as this event are critical to ensuring that Naples and Collier County continue to thrive in the years ahead.”
Speaker Amir Borges Ferreira Neto, director of the Regional Economic Research Institute at Florida Gulf Coast University, cautioned that, when it comes economic development, Naples and the rest of Southwest Florida can’t rest on their laurels.
The rising cost of housing, whether as a homeowner or renter, is a particular concern, Neto said, with not only low-income employees but also middle-class workers unable to afford to live where they work.
“It’s not just the low-paying jobs,” he said. “We need to think about who can really live in Naples moving forward.”
Jamie French, director of the Department of Growth Management Community Development for Collier County, concurred on the need for more affordable housing. Two days before he spoke, the Collier County Commission endorsed a set of changes to the county’s Growth Management Plan to allow more affordable housing in certain commercially zoned districts, as well as increased residential density in certain parts of town.
Such density increases could allow for more outside-the-box development, French suggested, even floating the notion of side-by-side row houses more commonly found in East Coast cities such as Baltimore and Philadelphia.
Elysia Dawn, executive director of United Arts Collier, envisions a 21st century Naples with a unified arts scene among the county’s nearly 200 arts organizations, a collective effort that would elevate the area’s arts scene among both locals and out-of-towners.
“I think Naples is going to continue to claim its own place (among other arts destinations),” she said.
Other Day of Learning speakers included Collier County Manager Amy Patterson and Dr. Rebecca Smith, president of the Collier County Medical Society.
For its initial seven years, the Day of Learning explored topical issues through a Jewish lens, Feld said. This year, event organizers framed the discussion as part of a broader community conversation that was also open to the public at the Federation’s new Nina Iser Jewish Cultural Center, which opened in January.
The theme is consistent with the mission of the Jewish Community Relations Council, which seeks to build bridges of communication and understanding with the broader Naples community.
About Jewish Federation of Greater Naples
The Jewish Federation of Greater Naples is the thread that runs through the fabric of the Jewish Community, its organizations and services, connecting the Jewish community. The Federation supports programs for Jewish people and the entire community in need in the greater Naples area, Israel and throughout the world, providing food for the hungry and counseling for the troubled, spearheading rescue and relief efforts for isolated Jews in distressed regions, and funding innovative Jewish educational and unity initiatives. The Federation creates a sense of community for thousands of Jewish residents in Greater Naples and its surrounding areas by creating and supporting programs to further Jewish learning, identity, pride and culture. Federation meets the challenge of providing for the needs of our Jewish brethren, wherever they may be, from young children and families to seniors. For information, visit jewishnaples.org, call 239-263-4205 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.