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Cape Coral Project Updates

From the News Press, March 2008

As the economy hobbles along, developers are eyeing the hiatus in housing development as a window for commercial growth in the Cape.

Plans for mixed use and massive commercial projects dominated discussions Tuesday during Futurescape 2008. The event, sponsored by the Women’s Council of Realtors, attracted hundreds of real estate brokers, developers and investors to the First Baptist Church of Cape Coral to share plans and ponder the future of Cape Coral’s growth.

La Brise Cap Coral

“It’s an exciting time to be in Cape Coral,” said Carl Schwing, Cape Coral’s assistant city manager. “We’ve got a lot of opportunities. I know what the real estate market is like and I’m excited that we’re seeing some additional activity.”

Helping accommodate commercial growth elsewhere, the city is looking to annex up to a square mile of property in several parcels north of Cape Coral. The city hopes it can zone large swaths of land for commercial development making the parcels an attractive investment for developers.

Recently annexed property in the city includes a 2,500-acre parcel in the north owned by the Zemel Trust. Annette Barbaccia of AMB Planning Consultants is working with Zemel Trust to develop a portion of the property. The parcel, Barbaccia said, holds the potential for 11 million square feet of commercial development and the possibility of environment-friendly industry.

Capitalizing on the Cape’s abundance of waterfront property, developers are eyeing property in the southwest Cape for extensive redevelopment. Barbaccia, the president of AMB Planning Consultants, detailed her client Tom Cirrincione’s plans for a $500 million project to reshape downtown.

AMB has finished conceptual plans, Barbaccia said, on the Piazza di Venezia, a mixed-use
development that would feature 1,000 residential units, 91,000 square feet of restaurant space,500,000 square feet of retail, a 2,000-seat theater, two five-star hotels, a convention center and a boat barn.


“It’ll change the face of downtown,” Barbaccia said. The project along Cape Coral Parkway stretches from Coronado to Triton Court and will include a new east to west road parallel to the parkway to handle traffic increases. Another of Barbaccia’s clients, Robbie A. Lee Jr. of Island Development, is working on $300 million worth of downtown development in the Village Square and Venetian Towers. His company recently finished the Entrada project in north Cape Coral.

More condos to come
Even with the slowdown in residential building, developers are still floating plans for condominiums and gated communities. The Cape Grande group is looking to build four developments with a total of 522 residential units. Among the developments is a 14-story high-rise near the Cape Coral Bridge off of Cape Coral Parkway overlooking the Caloosahatchee River known as La Brise.

Tuesday night, consultant Joe Mazurkiewicz spoke of plans for expanding office space near City Hall and constructing gated communities in the north of the Cape. Those properties, azurkiewicz said, could be ready for construction when the city expands utilities. Mazurkiewicz highlighted walkable, sustainable communities with light commercial intermingled with residential.

Pine Island Road

Despite boasting a population of over 170,000, developers have historically “missed the mark” on Cape Coral’s potential for commercial growth, according to Dale Hafele, a partner with the North American Properties development group. Hafele’s company brought a BJ’s wholesale store to Pine Island Road about three years ago, where it stood as an island of commerce in an otherwise undeveloped area.

Speaking Tuesday evening, Hafele credited the store with fueling a flurry of economic development along the Pine Island Road Corridor including a SuperTarget and several restaurants such as Panera Bread, which has the distinction of the highest volume of sales in the national chain’s stores. “Why has our company invested so much in Cape Coral?” Hafele said. “The Cape is a market we still consider to be underserved by national retailers, because of this wonderful climate we live in, because of this City Council’s commitment to smart growth.” Restaurants Chili’s and the Olive Garden also will open in the same Coral Walk plaza as Panera.

North of Pine Island Road on the corner of Diplomat Parkway and Del Prado Boulevard, Garrison development is planning to build the Diplomat Shoppes at Del Prado shopping plaza.The project highlights the difficulty of building commercial property by accumulating smaller residential properties. During a City Council meeting earlier this month, council members made clear their intentions to reject the project if the Garrison group could not secure a purchase agreement with a homeowner whose house would have been surrounded by the development. The homeowner and the developer signed a purchase agreement that night.

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