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Volunteers take on foreclosure blight

By Staff | Aug 31, 2009

City code enforcement officers, staff from the Community Redevelopment Agency and other volunteers decided to improve the entrance to the city on Saturday by mowing the grass at the foot of Cape Coral Bridge.
The 2.5 acre property at the end of the bridge, formerly owned by Cape Grand LLC, is what motorists first see after crossing from Fort Myers. In some places the grass was as high as one foot and overtook curbs as well as the end of sidewalks.
After cutting the grass, volunteers hope the city will be more eye-catching for visitors.
“It is community pride,” said John Jacobsen, executive director of the CRA. “This is what it is going to take for this city to succeed.”
Unkept lawns have been an issue in the city for almost two years since the Cape Coral and Fort Myers metropolitan area was named the foreclosure capital of the United States. As families and companies foreclosed their properties and left the city, no one was left to maintain simple things like front yards.
Volunteers on Saturday said they weren’t planting trees or dropping mulch.
“We are going to mow all of the grass, not going to do any landscaping,” said Jacobsen. “By law you have to mow your lawn.”
Not only had this property joined hundreds of others unkept throughout the city, but the story of Cape Grande itself further exemplifies the devastating effect of last year’s economic collapse.
Before the market crashed, the company had grand plans for the city.
According to Jacobsen, it had four projects planned for Cape Coral. An old sales center for model homes was transformed into their base of operations at the foot of Cape Coral Bridge and the company began cultivating interest in properties such as “La Brise,” a magnificent project with 12 stories and 10 units on each floor.
The La Brise would’ve sat where Cape Grande is today and the office was going to be turned into a waterfront restaurant.
“As you can see they shut it down. Their financing fell through and they couldn’t outlast the downturn,” said Jacobsen.
Jacobsen said the CRA held discussions with the company to find a way to build La Brise in stages, but the space on the property wouldn’t allow for it to be constructed bit by bit.
The office is now vacant. Models of other planned projects, such as Bella Tuscany near Veteran’s Parkway, now sit in the dark.