By Sarah Jarvis, News Source @News-Press
Cape Coral is moving forward with plans to develop the area around Bimini Basin.
At a city meeting this week, City Manager John Szerlag received verbal approval from City Council to formally start soliciting bids from potential partners around the U.S. for one of the Cape’s biggest development projects.
“This will change the face of Cape Coral for the next 50 years,” Szerlag said.
Szerlag said he wanted to include an estimated cost of the solicitation process, which he said would be around $100,000, to show the mayor and council that the cost wouldn’t be exorbitant. He plans to return to the council by October with a recommendation as to which development firm the city should select.
Kevin Crowder, a director with the development consulting and management firm Redevelopment Management Associates, gave a presentation Monday highlighting the project’s development possibilities, which he stressed are conceptual and not what is definitely what will happen. He said the “sweet spot” as of now caps housing at 50 units per acre with an eight story height limit.
He parsed the development into five locations to discuss possibilities for each:
- Location #1 includes the land between Tudor and Lucaya drives, a few houses deep off of Cape Coral Parkway East. Crowder said the area could include “shallow retail” toward Cape Coral Parkway, with other options including apartments and town homes.
- Location #2, just east of Sunset Towers, includes Four Freedoms Park. Crowder said the park was the “public centerpiece” of the Bimini Basin area, and options for enhancing the park include adding a basin walk and bike trails and streetscape improvements. He said a restaurant and hotel could eventually come to this location, after other, more significant private investment in the project.
- Location #3 is a nearly 90,000-square-foot lot just east of the Hampton Inn, which Crowder said includes 50-60,000-square-feet of viable commercial space. He said the space could see a mixed-use project with ground-floor retail and up to 100 apartments, but that the firm’s preferred option would be building another hotel.
- Location #4 includes three lots of about 100,000; 60,000 and 40,000-square-feet on the west side of Sunset Towers. Crowder said the location could see a variety of developments, including: multifamily housing, a theater, office space, a market, a restaurant, a retail building with an internal parking garage, and a road that could be closed into a promenade for events.
- Location #5 is the largest location, including the residential area to the east of Four Freedoms Park over to Coronado Parkway in the west. Crowder said one possibility is to create “super blocks,” by altering the easternmost blocks in the location to be more pedestrian-friendly.
District 1 council member John Gunter said he fully supports the project and wants the city to get moving on it.
“The problem that we have, I think, with this project is you have so many stakeholders involved here — so many property owners,” Gunter said. “But just because it’s difficult, doesn’t mean it’s an impossibility. It just means we’ve got to work harder to obtain what our goal is.”
Crowder said another goal of the project is improving the basin’s tidal flow, and that the city is considering enlarging the basin’s existing 24 to 36-inch pipe. The city also received a grant from the state for a possible mooring field program, he said, which would allow the city to more tightly regulate the boating and mooring in the basin.
Planning Manager Bob Peterson said the ordinance would regulate the time, place and manner of boat mooring. A consultant recently began drafting a mooring field ordinance to bring to council for consideration by the end of July, he said.
District 5 council member Dave Stokes said he heard on the campaign trail that derelict boats in the basin is a problem for some residents.
“If we’re solving a problem with (this project), that’s fantastic,” Stokes said.
Crowder said that parts of the Bimini Basin project should qualify for New Market Tax Credits, a U.S. Department of the Treasury program that “aims to break this cycle of disinvestment by attracting the private investment necessary to reinvigorate struggling local economies,” according to its website.
District 4 council member Jennifer Nelson, who was previously senior director of retail operations and e-commerce for Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, said she’s a huge fan of the program, and that she previously built a lot of Goodwill stores with the tax credits.
“I’m happy to hear that we qualify for that,” Nelson said.Szerlag said that because the city owns the Seven Islands property, that land will probably see development before Bimini Basin does. But he maintained that the city’s “ready to rock” with the project.
“Do you think that this is going to happen so that I can be at the ribbon cutting before I leave office?” District 6 council member Rick Williams asked Szerlag.
“Assuming you’re not impeached,” Szerlag said, to audience laughter, “the answer is yes. Absolutely.”