Imagine a couple in Fort Myers talking about a night out and suggesting downtown Cape Coral as the place to go.
Instead of people east and south of the Caloosahatchee River joking about the Cape's "downtown," they could make it a favored destination.
Where once there were dilapidated strip malls, the vision calls for three- to 12-story, pastel-hued buildings with individual character and landscaping.
Once it's finished, more than 11,000 people could live downtown in 432 acres along Cape Coral Parkway. The area runs from the Cape Coral Bridge on the east to Tudor Drive on the west and north on Del Prado Boulevard to Southeast 44th Street.
"I'd like to go shopping at that place. As long as it isn't big skyscrapers."
Developers already have invested millions in land acquisition.
Smaller buildings such as Coronado Terrace, a four-story, 80-condominium project with 30,000 square feet of office and retail shop space on the ground floor, could be open in a couple of years.
Larger projects will take longer.
More than 10 projects, including residential condos, offices and retail space, are in the process of getting permits or ready to apply for permits.
The goal is to give people opportunity to live and work in the area.
"It makes sense to have people of all ages who work here live here," said Cape resident Mark Hyland, 48. "It is about having a vibrant downtown."
"With what we have coming to the downtown we can offer hundreds of jobs in offices along with shops and residential areas," said Suzanne Kuehn. She heads the Community Redevelopment Agency, the organization that oversees the area's pending rebirth.
City officials estimate Cape Coral's population has passed 155,000, and it continues to add about 10,000 per year.
"We have a plan. We have willing investors. We have willing customers," Kuehn said. "This is not a gamble. It is a prudent investment."
Homesteaded residences have a 3 percent cap on how much assessments can be raised in one year. Business property has no cap.
In 2005, city government received about $12 million from the sales tax. Officials expect to top $16 million in 2009.
In addition to keeping people on the Cape side of the bridge, a growing downtown would prevent blight, Kuehn said.
It's broken sidewalks and curbs, inadequate street layout, unpaved parking, failing businesses, insufficient utilities and low property values.
The agency started small. It launched a street landscaping program, helped widen Cape Coral Parkway and began to court developers.
Village Square plans 156 residential condos, retail shops and professional offices with more than 1,000 parking spots.
Other housing, office and retail projects could add almost 1,000 residential condominiums and about a million square feet of office space and retail shops.
The Coronado Terraces site sits next to Elmer Tabor's recently completed Hampton Inn.
"Everyone waited for the hotel to come out of the ground to see if the CRA was serious," Tabor said. "Once we got that done, Dave (Nogaki) jumped in. One development will bring another and two will bring four in over the next five years."
By Pete skiba
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Schiff Realty, Inc
1314 Cape Coral Pkwy E.
3rd Floor Ste 319
Cape Coral, FL 33904
Phone : 239-540-0061
Toll Free: 866-559-1003