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Futurescape unveils opportunities for Cape, despite economy; Trade show draws hundreds, many optimistic about upcoming projects

By Staff | Mar 19, 2008

Economic times are tough across the country, and Cape Coral has certainly felt the heavy hand of the nation’s housing crisis and credit crunch.

But hundreds of local business professionals, Realtors and developers at Tuesday’s Futurescape trade show expressed optimism about what the coming years hold for the city.

“Cape Coral is a thriving community and we are alive and well in business,” event organizer Gloria Tate told a crowd of about 600.

“The sky has fallen, it has hit us on the head, and we’re still here,” said John Jacobsen, Community Redevelopment Agency board chairman. “Every Realtor I have talked to has talked about increased sales.”

Organizers said the 15th annual Futurescape was far better attended than expected as they projected a crowd three times smaller than what showed up.

Attendees and speakers gave glowing remarks about the networking session prior to the main program, and the audience buzzed all night about what developments lie a few years ahead.

A project that could reshape the face of Cape Coral and make for an impressive entrance to the city in the downtown area stole the show as Jacobsen showed off a 14-story high-end condominium and mixed use project that would alter the skyline along the Caloosahatchee River.

The developer, named La Brise, will place an 11-story residential tower on top of three levels of parking, abutted by townhouses and facing boatslips. The top floor will feature penthouses that could sell for well over $1 million a piece.

A three-story office and mixed use building next to the residential tower is also planned, as is a waterfront restaurant with public walkway.

“That is an absolutely magnificent development,” said Jacobsen.

Other projects that could shake up the city were also announced as two partners in the downtown Hampton Inn unveiled a new 94-unit hotel along Pine Island Road in the northeastern section of the city.

Managing partner Fred Hirschovites said the new hotel would bring in $5 million of outside money on an annual basis and generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax money.

“We are ready to take a chance in these interesting economic times,” he told the audience. “We’re going to go for it.”

Cape pioneer and hotel partner Elmer Tabor was “very proud” to announce the Hampton Inn North. He said the hotel will meet a demand as the city gets ready to grow again, despite the current slump.

“We’ve had recessionary periods, but guess what, we’ve always grown out of it,” Tabor said.

A nearly 90,000-square-foot mixed use development with retail and office space will be opening up along the northern section of Del Prado Boulevard in the next few years, Garrison Developer Group President Rey Ortega announced.

City Council approved the site plan last week, and Ortega said his company will pick up its vertical construction permit next week with construction commencing soon afterward.

“All you Realtors out there, bring us deals,” he said.

Putting together enough parcels of land to make a big commercial development is no easy task, as Dale Hafele of North American Properties well knows. His firm struggled to assemble the pieces for Coralwalk, which opened last year, and the Midpoint Center on Veterans Parkway and Santa Barbara Boulevard that was completed in 2002.

“The owners of these lots were from everywhere,” Hafele said. “In fact many of the original owners had passed away and in some of these situations the heirs did not even know that they owned the lots.”

Many commercial buildings sit vacant, looking for leasers, but Hafele professed a “strong belief in the Cape Coral market.” He said the city is still underserved by national retailers.

Assistant City Manager Carl Schwing touched on longer term plans as he showed off a number of annexations in the works, including the Zemel deal. He said it could be resolved soon as the city plans to bring a second settlement plan forward in the next few months.

Future annexations could yield office development, parks and environmental recreation opportunities.

He also pointed to continued development on Pine Island Road and the new Saturn dealership as prime examples of it being an “exciting time” to be in the Cape.

“I encourage you to go out and sell the house of Cape Coral,” Schwing said. “It is a wonderful one.”