FROM THE BLOGS
City Council member Finlay weighs in on name game Jeff Lytle's views and news
NAPLES — Naples and Collier County residents could soon be discussing how important the name Naples is to Southwest Florida.
In November, Naples City Council is expected to discuss whether it is feasible to consider changing the city’s name to Naples on the Gulf. The discussion was prompted by a request from Councilman Gary Price and will likely look at the pros and cons of changing the city’s name.
Price said his decision to request the workshop was made in “the spirit of hanging on to the 14 square miles” that make up the city of Naples.
While the city is made up of about 22,000 residents, the majority of the 350,000 Collier County residents refer to themselves as Neapolitans. Price said he hoped a discussion about the city’s name would distinguish it from the surrounding community.
“Clearly Naples is the signature city for all of Collier County and Southwest Florida,” said Michael Reagen, president of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s a nice thing to contemplate... but it’s not going to matter to the half million people in Collier County.”
That’s because, Reagen said, many of those residents will still tell people they live in Naples.
“If you’re in a satellite and going over this part of the world, people think of this part of the world as Naples,” he said. “Everything is called Naples.”
Reagen said he didn’t think a name change would have any affect on the more than 2,000 businesses the chamber represents in Southwest Florida.
But Lisa Swirda, executive director of the Downtown Naples Association, said Thursday changing the city’s name could be a positive thing for downtown Naples businesses.
“It may set us apart, in a good way of course,” she said. “Maybe it will be a good thing to be more specific. Everyone says Naples very off the cuff, and (a change) may help with the distinction.”
But that distinction could come at a cost. Swirda said businesses downtown would have to invest money into changing addresses on business cards, bags and other forms of advertisements. Swirda said she didn’t know what the overall cost would be, but said it would likely vary from business to business.
It’s not just businesses that would have to change stationary and labels, that’s something Naples residents would also be forced to do if Naples were to become Naples on the Gulf.
Murray Hendel, a Naples resident and member of the county’s tourist development council, said his immediate reaction to a proposal to change Naples name “would be negative.”
“It’s known all over the world as it is,” he said. “I love the idea of Naples on the Gulf. It’s very appealing, but to go through the rigmarole of changing the name appears to me as being a exercise in futility.”
Hendel said the request reminded of him of one made earlier this year to change the name of Parkshore Drive to Lutgert Drive in honor of Raymond Lutgert, the community’s developer. Hendel said “people revolted 100 percent” over that idea.
The city had not received any e-mails about the proposal as of Thursday afternoon.
About 10 communities — including St. Pete Beach and Hallandale Beach — in the past two decades have changed their names, said Sharon Berrian, a spokeswoman for the Florida League of Cities.
Berrian said communities change names for a variety of reasons, including trying to distinguish itself from the surrounding communities. That was the case with St. Pete Beach, formally St. Petersburg Beach because residents felt they were often being confused for St. Petersburg.
“Some people feel a change more accurately reflects their community,” Berrian said.
But changing the name isn’t as easy as a City Council vote. Naples name — as is with most cities in the state of Florida — was established through the city’s charter. That means any name change needs to be approved by city voters.
The city’s formal name, City of Naples, was established in 1949, and was called Town of Naples prior to the adoption of the 1949 charter.
The longevity of the community’s name could end up meaning a change would mess with a well established brand, said Jim Hoppensteadt, the president of the Pelican Bay Foundation.
Hoppensteadt is no stranger to discussions about the importance of a name: The Pelican Bay community discussed how the name Naples would factor in to any decisions about incorporation.
“The feedback then was there was not a huge appetite to do anything to separate our community from the term Naples as it relates to a brand,” Hoppensteadt said. “The whole imagery evoked when you say Naples would be something that our community would never want to lose.”
Hoppensteadt said Naples residents need to be careful when it comes to messing with the brand, but said in the long run a decision to change the city’s name won’t have any affect on Pelican Bay or other unincorporated Collier County residents.