By David Dorsey
As Cape Coral hurdles toward its future at paces fast and slow, residents received updates on two projects that will transform the southern part of the city.
The $13 million Streetscape project will reshape 47th Terrace between Del Prado and Coronado boulevards, one block north of Cape Coral Parkway. It will eliminate street-side parking on 47th Terrace while enhancing sidewalks and adding 41 parking spots to the surrounding area, bringing the number of spots from 1,181 to 1,222.
Citizens packed the Chester Street Resource Center during a three-hour meeting last week. Many left after the first portion of the meeting, missing a 30-minute presentation on the Bimini Basin project, which is targeted for three-to-five years from now. That project would transform the south Cape in even more dramatic fashion, adding condominiums, restaurants and retail areas to the basin, about a mile west of where the Streetscape project begins.
Construction on the Streetscape sidewalk widening cannot begin until the bidding process runs its course, but city Councilman John Carioscia said he expected that to happen in early 2018.
Over the course of about 90 minutes, citizens voiced the pros and cons of the Streetscape project.
Some of the business owners along the street complained the loss of those street-side parking spots would hurt. Others proclaimed the wider sidewalks would have the opposite effect and help generate more traffic to their restaurants, bars or shops.
Whether they liked it or not, change was coming to the street in order to comply with updated state parking standards and codes, said Carioscia, who as all council members doubles as a Community Redevelopment Agency member. The CRA put on the meeting in conjunction with the South Cape Community Redevelopment Advisory Board.
“As it stands, 86 percent of the parking right now would have to go anyway,” Carioscia said, meaning any street improvements made to 47th Terrace would call for bringing that street to new Florida codes. “This is important, because I think this went over a lot of people’s heads. Any change would require us to work under the new parking restrictions. What I was most happy about, is that we came to somewhat of a solution. We can designate certain parking spots in a limited amount of time. It will hopefully appease shop owners.”
Cape Coral city Traffic Engineer Bill Corbett showed what the area would gain in parking by redrawing the lot at Big John’s Plaza and other nearby city lots.
“There will be mid-block crossings and drop-off points for people in taxis, Uber and valet services,” Corbett said.
The speed limit on the street will fall from 30 to 25 mph.
A motion was proposed to further delay the Streetscape from happening. No one wanted to delay, which relieved Donna Meola, executive director of the South Cape Hospitality and Entertainment Association. She pleaded at the meeting to move forward with the project.
“We’re trying to look for ways to make this work for everyone,” Meola said. “I’m a 40-year resident of Cape Coral. It’s time to make this place better. Let’s not put this on the back burner. Let’s figure out a way to make this work.”
Charlie Meyer, who retired to Cape Coral in 2001, said he wished there were a way to widen the sidewalks and preserve some street-side parking on 47th Terrace for the benefit of businesses like Merrick Seafood and Fish Tale Grill, a popular dine-in and takeout restaurant.
“If someone hears about Merrick Seafood and Fish Tale from someone like me, and they go to 47th Terrace, and there’s no place to park, are they going to walk all the way back?” Meyer said. “I don’t know.”
The far more complex Bimini Basin project drew much less interest from the public.
“Building the basin is three years away,” Carioscia said. “A lot of people aren’t interested in projects that are three years away. This other project is three months away. Once we get closer, the crowds will get bigger.
“I’ve seen some of the artist renditions. They are most impressive. It’s time for the Cape to grow up.”
Kevin Crowder, director of economic development for Redevelopment Management Associates, a Pompano Beach firm, gave a 30-minute presentation on redeveloping the land rimming the north side of the Bimini Basin, a widened portion of the canal fronted by Four Freedoms Park.
Preserve, enhance, expose, invest and capitalize were five of the keywords Crowder shared.
“What connects residents and citizens to their community?” Crowder said. “What connects is not jobs. It’s the aesthetics of the place. It’s activities. It’s being open and welcoming.”
The project will generate jobs in the form of shops, restaurants and possibly a hotel.
“That connection between downtown and the Bimini Basin becomes so important to this plan,” Crowder said.
Land near the basin will be rezoned. As some property owners move, some of their land might be frozen in order to make way for bigger projects.
“This is the tip of the iceberg,” Crowder said. “This entire project will determine the future success of Cape Coral. In three-to-five years, I think we’re going to be able to generate some serious interest from developers.”
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