Naples. THEN. NOW.

Karen Coney Coplin

Thirty years ago, this month, 1994, I moved to Naples. As with any type of anniversary, it’s timely to reflect back on what was and take stock of today.

Then, it was a sleepy town by anyone’s standards, but it did have the Naples Philharmonic, now Artis-Naples.

I was relocating from Palm Beach County, a much more heavily populated region, yet the area was just establishing its own performing Arts Center at that time.

Here in Naples, we were ahead of the curve due to the driving force of the late Myra Janco Daniels. Naples welcomed “The Phil” in 1989 to its inaugural season in its present location.

Then the pier

No doubt this was a driving factor in putting Pelican Bay on the map as a destination residential community. Prior to that, there were performances at Naples High School and other unexpected sites including Marco Island locations.

As a pet lover then (and now), with two dogs and one cat, it was not easy to find a new place to call home sweet home. It was a real delight to discover Bent Pines Villas located in a convenient setting in the center of town, surrounded by lush gardens. Even today, it remains true to its roots as a community welcoming pets of different kinds including larger sized dogs.

Prices then: $105,000 for a two bedroom + den/2 BA townhome style condo.

Prices now: there have been several sales over $600,000 and there is a current listing at 1281 Solana Road, offered for $575,000.

Pelican Bay properties, of course, have experienced even more noteworthy appreciation.

For instance, the Bay Villas community is also pet friendly and very close to Artis-Naples. While there were no sales posted in 1994, sales in 1998 were in the $200,000 range. A sale early this year was $1,850,000.

Then downtown

1994 was notable for another reason, as there was a baseball strike and no World Series. Now -and then- the Minnesota Twins and also the Boston Red Sox have spring training in the City of Palms, north of Naples. This is actually the 34th season for the Twins coming to Lee County & the Red Sox are celebrating their silver anniversary with spring training in Fort Myers this year. Kudos to both, with cheers to their devoted fans.

Thirty years ago, most of the streets in Old Naples did not yet have “traffic calming” devices such as the circles which are now routinely found throughout downtown.

I’ll never forget one letter to the editor who wrote that Central Avenue had become a raceway, pleading for people to slow down. Still another letter writer mourned the passage of the Central Ave. of old, stating that it struck him as the Naples equivalent of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. That’s no longer the case with many planters established west of 8th Street, where a traffic circle has also been installed for many years.

At this time, the library on Central Avenue was also the main branch, but this title was transferred to Orange Blossom Drive. Still, there is no denying the appeal of the architecture of Central Ave. library. I don’t know about you, but I’m overdue for a visit!

In the 1990s, the Naples Airport had numerous commercial airlines, and like any small airport, it was so easy to check in, plus, free parking! Of course this was well before September 11, so the protocols were much more relaxed but I do remember arriving at the airport 15 minutes before a flight…no problem. And the luggage carousel pickup was outside.

USAir (later Airways) might have connected you to Tampa or Miami, then off to your final destination. I remember Delta and United had service, too. Those were the days.

A few months ago I wrote about the avenues in Old Naples, which end at the beach with park benches serving as memorials for people who once enjoyed so many different things about visiting the Gulf of Mexico.

Of course, those benches were lost to the sea because of the storm surge from Hurricane Ian.

For nostalgia and history’s sake it would be nice if these were replaced, especially, if possible, with plaques or markers similar to those previously in place.

Maybe news of that will develop in 2024.

Change is always constant. If you have a particular memory to add from those days of long ago, I’d love to hear!

If you want to be part of lifting others up and celebrating the awards recipients next month, I’d love to hear from you and meet you, too. Email Karen with your article ideas concerning Life in Naples (especially as to local charities and their activities): Follow her on Instagram for more vignettes about Life in Naples: @naplesbythenumbers

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