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Parkway project start may be postponed

By Staff | Sep 23, 2010

The Community Redevelopment Agency is recommending an April start date for the rebuilding of Cape Coral Parkway, fearing the former tentative start of Jan. 10 would cause serious damage for businesses still reeling from the economic downturn.
Board member and Leapin’ Lizards owner Jack Evans said businesses that are hanging on by a thread in the district might not survive complications the rebuilding project could present.
“We’re coming off a horrible economic summer for retail people in downtown Cape Coral. Many people are no longer in business because of that situation,” Evans said.
Not a mere resurfacing project, the “rebuilding” of Cape Coral Parkway has been in the works and discussed for nearly half of a decade.
Rebuilding means the parkway will be completely ripped up and then entirely rebuilt, though right now it’s unclear what the length of the project will be.
City Transportation Director Steve Neff said it’s not a “full road construction project” and therefore would be less complicated.
“It’s a quicker process, and as they do pieces (of the road) those pieces will be usable more quickly,” Neff said. “Unlike if you’re building a brand new road and putting pipes in the ground.”
With the work previously scheduled to start tentatively in November, the bid process was set to begin in October. It’s unclear, if the project is pushed back officially, how it would affect the bid process.
Tom Tommitch, who owns Parkway Antiques on the south side of the parkway, said he was barely hanging on and feared what the rebuilding project would do.
“Our last season, in season, was dreadful,” Tommitch said. “We’ve exhausted all of our savings to keep the taxes paid on the building.”
Councilmember Marty McClain said he fears pushing the project back too far, especially as it gets closer to rainy season again.
But more importantly, McClain said, the project could very easily slow people down and get them to see other parts of downtown because of detours. Slowing people down as they pass through downtown is something that urban planner Bernard Zyscovich wants to see.
“Now we’re going to force them to see things that are outside of Cape Coral Parkway … were going to force them to slow down,” McClain said. “I don’t think a little inconvenience is the end of the world, especially when we have a lot of people down here.”
CRA Chairman Don Heisler said the perception that roads are torn up in the South Cape may do more long-term damage than anything else, but added that in reality there might never be an optimum to start ripping up Cape Coral Parkway.
“There’s never going to be a good time to do it,” Heisler said.
An April start date recommendation was passed by the CRA Board 6 – 1, with Vice Chairman Jim Martin dissenting.
In other news, CRA Executive Director John Jacobsen received mostly high praise from the board for his job performance during his annual review.
Jacobsen declined a contractual 3 percent cost-of-living wage increase, and declined a merit increase as well.
It was suggested by Board member Frank Dethlefsen that Jacobsen take a 5 percent wage reduction to mirror not only the city’s recent wage cuts, but wage cuts happening nationwide.
Chairman Don Heisler praised the efforts of Jacobsen.
“We are privileged to have John as our director,” he said.