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Tax subsidy agreement at issue in planned downtown project

By Staff | Mar 9, 2010

It’s been four years since Robbie Lee’s Island Development was the only company to answer the Comunity Redevelopment Agency’s request for proposal to redevelop the land at the corner of Southeast 8th Court and Southeast 47th Terrace, but it’s been even longer since the city’s downtown has been begging for its own identity, destination, or landmark to draw people to the district.
“Village Square” hopes it will be just that: a mixed use facility that offers the type of drawing power that Cape Harbour, and the newly opened Tarpon Point Marina, have given diners, shoppers, event go-ers and condo-hunters in recent years, only within the confines of the city’s CRA.
It’s the “build it and they will come mentality” of the project that Lee has said kept him plugging along for nearly half a decade. And now that the project is closer than ever to finally breaking ground, there’s still a few hiccups that need to be sorted out.
City council recently approved a conveyance of the lots needed to construct the multi-phase development, which starts with a six story parking garage, a police substation, and Fifth-Third Bank, but work still needs to be done on the Tax Increment Financing, or TIF agreement.
A previous CRA board promised Lee a 95 percent return rate in TIF funds in the first phase of the project, after all fees and taxes were paid and the first phase completed.
But the current CRA board worried the project won’t become transformational until the second phase, when two six-story condominium towers are constructed.
Lee said he understood that amount was high, but he would need every bit of it to see the project through to completion.
“I think it is a lot of money to get back, there is a lot of risk. But the only thing I’m asking for is what I was promised in the past,” Lee said. “Every penny we need to make this project work … I don’t want to build a half-assed project.”
The entire board agreed the CRA desperately needs a project to transform downtown Cape, and believe Lee’s Village Square will do just that.
But they felt more staff needs to do more work, specifically to research what was promised by former CRA boards, before formally supporting the TIF agreement.
“I’m sure were going to come to a positive resolution going forward with this project,” board member Frank Dethlefsen said.
The CRA holds its regular monthly meeting next Tuesday, March 16, 5:30 pm, 1231 Cape Coral Parkway East.