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New vision plan for Cape’s downtown unveiled

By Staff | Sep 1, 2010

Like any relationship, Bernard Zyscovich and his team of urban planners feel that a lot of little things will mean so much to the city’s community redevelopment district, and to some extent, the way that people relate to the downtown area.
As part of his preliminary vision plan presentation on Tuesday, Zyscovich said that an accumulation of these little things, many of which are cost efficient, will begin to create a sense of place, an identity.
While the vision plan is indeed a long term set of goals for the Community Redevelopment Agency, Zyscovich said there things that can be accomplished, and appreciated, in the near future.
“There are things that can be done incrementally, just taking one block at a time,” he said. “Even without a significant private investment you’re able to change the ambiance of the block.”
The vision plan includes identifying four districts in the CRA.
The Big John block would focus on entertainment; Club Square would be used to connect Cape Coral Parkway to the Malaga Canal and eventual waterfront park; the “Sweetbay District” would be used as an enhanced shopping and dining area; And a “Demonstration Area” between the Parkway and Miramar would be used as combination greenway and for stormwater run off.
There are other things, like enhancing the sidewalks along the parkway, creating mid-block pedestrian crossing opportunities, utilizing the setbacks along the parkway, stretching the sidewalks at corners, adding more vegetation along the sidewalks and enhancing Southeast 10th Place for use as a main connector between the parkway and the proposed canal front park.
“We’re talking about modest changes right now,” Zyscovich said. “It doesn’t require us to buy property, or spin our wheels and spend money in a way that doesn’t produce much.”
As these elements begin to take shape, and to mature, they will form what Zyscovich describes as a district wide greenway, where people will be walking and riding their bikes, sitting in sidewalk cafes, spending time where most simply just speed through in their cars.
Zyscovich said they will form the long, sought after continuity in the district.
“We have to find a way to make the connections,” he said.
There are more ambitious elements to the plan, though the famed urban planner admitted those elements were not in the immediate future.
Luring an educational or medical facility to Club Square could be a goal, or connecting the Bimini Basin to the Rubicon canal, or installing a beach at Four Freedoms Park.
“It takes one of the assets that are inaccessible to so many people and opens it up,” Zyscovich said of the water access that surrounds the CRA.
The CRA Board voted unanimously to accept the preliminary plan on Tuesday.
They also unanimously praised the vision plan, calling it both realistic and achievable.
Board member Rich Greer called the former “Dover-Kohl” vision plan a relic from a bygone era. It was developed right before and during the real estate boom.
“This works now,” Greer said of the Zyscovich plan. “And I don’t think we can make a mistake with this plan.”
“It did not disappoint me,” Chairman Don Heisler added. “I see some very common sense solutions and a practicality to the plan.”
The final version of the vision plan was due in November but will likely be delivered earlier because the board universally accepted the preliminary report.
Though not contained within the scope of the current contract with Zyscovich, the CRA board could enter into another contract that would allow the planner and his staff to work on changing zoning and land use requirements in the CRA.
Zyscovich said changing the zoning and land use codes is as crucial, if not more so, than the vision plan itself.
“We need to enter into the zoning process and fix it,” he said.
Cape resident Linda Prince thanked Zyscovich for his vision plan and hugged him.
“It’s up to us as citizens to make our own destination and have to make baby steps,” she said. “These are our first baby steps tonight.”