What We Can Learn from Naples: Covered Sidewalks Edition

Here is a photo of a storefront on Naples, Fla.’s 3rd Street that extends over the sidewalk to the edge of the street — reminiscent of many buildings in New Orleans’ French Quarter. The addition of columns, archways and covered sidewalk creates visual interest, provides a variable experience for pedestrians along 3rd Street, and allows the property owner to gain a few dozen square feet of space on the second floor of his building.

To my mind, it’s all gain, no pain. There is no downside to this configuration. Yet I don’t recall seeing anything like this anywhere in Virginia. Why would that be? Could it be that local zoning codes prohibit it? Could it be that our public officials who write and vote upon our zoning ordinances have no imagination?

Static zoning codes are the enemy of creativity, innovation and evolution of the urban form.

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6 responses to “What We Can Learn from Naples: Covered Sidewalks Edition

  1. The feature of the outdoor arcade as a public street space in the Americas appears, in my recollection, to be significantly more common in former Spanish colonial lands than former English colonial lands. Although there was a revival of the Spanish Colonial style in the 20th century (per Wikipedia), I think most of the revival occurred in former Spanish colonial areas (the Spanish deliberately built structures to inspire awe in colonial areas, which the English apparently did not).

  2. Seems to be a Mediterranean trait — arcades are certainly common enough in Italy and southern France also, and their former colonies. But there’s a difference between a charming sitting porch extending out over the sidewalk as in these examples, and building a three or more story structure right out to the curb line with a recess underneath for a pedestrian way, the “efficient” way to maximize the interior square footage of the building.

    Is there a commercial builder willing to temper his desire for more square feet inside to do what is right voluntarily to preserve the charm of a quirky, organic pedestrian-oriented streetscape? But once a city starts writing the rules down to mandate the outcome, it seems the spontaneity and quirkyness are banished, too.

  3. Conservative folks sometimes seem to be of two minds on cities and planning.

    On one hand, they blame planners for restricting development that then causes “stroads” and “sprawl”, then on the other hand they love places like Naples, Arlington, etc – which more often than not are almost unique enclaves surrounded by, for want of a better description – “planning gone wrong”!

    Naples itself is a small town of about 20,000 surrounded by 300,000 folks in Collier, County. Unlike Virginia, Naples is not an independent city but it does have it’s own government so unclear to me how planning “works” but there are many places like Naples (for instance San Antonios River Walk or parts of Arlington, etc.

    But Naples, like many other enclaves like it, is surrounded by at least 4 car-centric Walmart supercenters and other big box stuff where most ordinary un-rich do their shopping.

    Collier County is the largest county in Florida measured on a land basis.

    Like a lot of its counterparts – we see the wealth but they are just small portion of the population, a lot of it service economy – those folks also have to have a place to live, play and shop – also but it also has to be affordable and I suspect like NoVa or Richmond , it has it’s share of exurban sprawl.

    I’m not dinging Naples any more than I’d ding other places like it that are certainly nice places to visit and enjoy but I just don’t think they are real and practical settlement patterns for the population at large.

    Virtually everyone who visits, shops, works in Naples gets there by a car.

    There was a time many years ago before we had an interstate highway system that towns were much more enclaves with local roads for farmers but if you wanted to go to somewhere some distance away -you took the train.

    There are many towns today that still have that railroad slicing right through
    to the town to the city center.

    Indeed – rail (and major roads) played major roles in the development of Naples; ” The name Naples caught on when promoters described the bay as “surpassing the bay in Naples, Italy”. Major development was anticipated after the railroad reaching Naples on January 7, 1927, and the Tamiami Trail linking Naples to Miami was completed in 1928, ” (wiki)

    I just don’t think of Naples as a model for settlement patterns but rather more of a preserved artifact. I’m sure some folks will disagree.

  4. I’d say the new request from Tysons developers for higher parking maximums, a link to which I posted earlier, pretty well sums up the argument that transit-oriented development is more of a smokescreen to make more money than it is a new way of increasing density without a negative impact on traffic congestion and quality of life.

    The big question is now: What will Fairfax County do in response to the proposal to recognize Tysons is more car-centric than the promises made by the developers? In theory, it should also include a reduction in permitted density.

    • I’ve been out of Tyson’s Corner a very long time, but I suspect the basic thrust of the fundamental solution is the same its always been and proven in B/R corridor. Adapted to today’s Tyson’s Corner, that base solution would be:

      1/ No more additional net commercial density allowed in Tysons,
      2/ No more additional net office density allowed in Tysons,
      3/ As much additional residential density added to Tyson’s as possible.

      No. 1 -3 would include the conversion of existing commercial and office into residential and ancillary residential as practicable. New or reconfigured ancillary public use improvements that facilitate synergy between remaining commercial, office, and residential development as possible. This program would continue until best functional balance is found, including traffic neutral communities within Tyson’s Corner.

      The program hopefully would be part of a overall new comprehensive land use & transportation plan for Northern Virginia, using similar principles in conjunction with an altogether new vision, and new integrated transport plan.

      The time is ripe for all of this, given the obvious need for such action region wide, in addition to Amazon’s arrival, its potential impact on entire region, and the quality of talent and technology that can now be deployed to find solutions. I would hope such region wide plans are already underway.

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