OPINION

Guest opinion: Historic rehabilitation taking place in Naples

Elaine Reed
Special to the Naples Daily News
1930 Beach Home, a home listed in the Naples Historic District and National Register of Historic Places, is pictured, Wednesday, May 20, 2020, in Naples.

Many interested residents have followed Naples Historical Society’s earnest efforts regarding historic rehabilitation in the Naples Historic District. Thank you for your charitable support throughout the years.  We have made great strides (in a very uphill battle!). 

We successfully advocated for legislation that is of tremendous benefit to owners of historic houses who have the vision to maintain the character of their houses.  The exemptions in that legislation make all the difference.  We deeply appreciate their choices to acknowledge the significance of the District and take advantage of the legislation. 

Elaine Reed

We have tirelessly encouraged building industry and real estate professionals to acknowledge and rely on this local legislation.  At the request of the owner or their rehabilitation team, we have advocated for the rehabilitation of 23 historic houses over the years and have prevented the demolition of 11!  In a federally recognized historic district that has only 58 historic houses remaining, this is significant. 

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While we have achieved palpable results, the challenges to historic rehabilitation in Naples continue.  Bureaucracy at the state level exists (rule changes and questionable interpretations).  Plus, the real estate market is uniquely Naples.  We know that a rehabilitated house can produce remarkable returns AND can increase the market value of neighboring properties.  Persuading new buyers to believe that is not simple.

And, in all truth, private property rights advocates are raucously strong in Naples. Mandates or not, the imposition of guidelines is enough to dissuade many from joining our efforts.  Disagreements can turn into battles.  Battles can turn into legal nightmares.  

We know this because we've heard of threats for such.  The preservation or denigration of the historic houses in the Naples Historic District rests on the shoulders of the owners or buyers of these properties. 

Given this, the Society will not pursue a course of action that could provoke litigation or diminish all we have worked so hard to achieve to date.  It is important that our fellow citizens are aware of this situation and our position.

Encouragement to rehabilitate historic houses will be the key going forward. 

Our recommendation to the City of Naples includes sagacious ideas that do not reflect mandates or anything that can bring expensive lawsuits upon any entity.  Our six-step plan follows:  

1.   Encourage owners of historic houses, the building community, realtors, residents, and newcomers to the City to learn about fruitful historic rehabilitation legislation.  View two videos on the Society’s website to learn more. 

2.   The City could expand the job responsibilities of a City staff member to include “Historic House Concierge,” which would refer to the professional, patient guidance that is needed to help owners and their architect/contractor to navigate rehabilitation choices. 

3.   The City could explore a property tax abatement.  This idea could present challenges from others throughout the County because the reduction in tax revenue could impact the ability to fund other prioritized projects.  It's a matter of community and taxpayer priority.

4.   The City could consider requiring a Sales Disclosure for every house that is historic. 

5.   The City could institute a Deconstruction Ordinance, a piece of legislation that addresses what happens to the assets of an historic house once it’s slated for demolition.   

Naples Historical Society will most certainly continue its work to help owners of historic houses as is requested.  That will never change!  Please call the Society to learn more about our work in the Naples Historic District and how you can help us in our quest to maintain the character and charm of this remarkable District. 

Naples Historical Society is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of Naples’ story for the enjoyment of the community and future generations.

Elaine Reed is President & CEO of the Naples Historical Society.