homepage logo

VIZ ready for business City EDO to host Veterans Investment Zone forum

By Staff | Nov 5, 2011

Wednesday’s Veterans Investment Zone Forum marks the second time the city has showcased the area in and around the new Veterans Administration Clinic as a place ripe for future development.

This year’s effort will be held on the VA Clinic property, differing from last year’s forum, which was held at Tarpon Point.

Bringing the the forum to the heart of the Veterans Investment Zone gives the city’s Economic Development Office the necessary backdrop to help investors, developers and even residents see the area’s potential, according to EDO Director Dana Brunett.

“I think it’s going to be powerful just seeing the facility,” Brunett said.

The city’s new EDO director will be on hand for this year’s forum; last year the city was still without a permanent EDO director, but Brunett said the forum is not about his arrival and is instead about the opportunities available in the VIZ.

“The clinic creates an opportunity, there’s no doubt about that. But what you do with that opportunity is what’s being focused on now,” Brunett added.

When completed, the clinic will measure 220,000 square feet and employ up to 400 people at full capacity. The clinic also carries a $131.8 million price tag, according to Veterans Administration spokeswoman Faith Belcher, and is being built by Manhattan Kraft Construction.

Belcher said the clinic is on track to open in a late spring, early summer time period next year.

“The contractor is still putting the finishing touches on the building and the VA has yet to accept the building,” Belcher said.

Belcher added that all the necessary equipment has been purchased for the facility, and when the VA does take control of the building it will take four – six months to make all the necessary equipment installations.

“We’ll be starting that as soon as we accept possession,” she added.

The VIZ’s full potential, if realized, is still likely years down the road, but some development, including Patriot Plaza, a development that fronts Pine Island Road could be the first of many mixed use facilities featuring medical, office and retail components.

The EDO is envisioning a major medical presence in the VIZ to complement both the clinic and Hope Hospice, which sits across from the VA Clinic on Diplomat Parkway.

“We definitely want to create a synergy.” Dana Brunett said. “You want a certain amount of mixed use but we are going to focus on the medical side of things because its a natural fit.”

Ralph Santillo, president of the Invest In America Veterans Foundation, hopes the city also focuses on opportunities for veterans within the VIZ.

Santillo has been working on building a database of local veterans available for work and he’s bringing that message to the VIZ.

“The most important thing is to keep people aware of what we do,” Santillo said. “Being involved with the forum could also help with our jobs program.”

Santillo estimates there are more than 200,000 veterans living in Southwest Florida, but many are still unaware of the new clinic’s location.

Santillo said they’ve been trying to keep all vets informed and that includes reminding them the Veterans Investment Foundation is there for their needs.

“We’re still here and we’re trying to grow with the community,” Santillo said.

Presentations are scheduled to be made by VA Clinic Associate Chief of Staff Dr. Ajay Dhawan, Patriot Plaza Project Director Chuck Smith, North American Properties Director Shawn McIntire and Councilmember Bill Deile, a retired army colonel.

City Manager Gary King said the momentum going in the VIZ and next week’s forum will hopefully keep that going.

He said the city’s mission will be to find ways to keep investors and developers not only interested in the VIZ, but also finding ways to make those opportunities become reality.

“We’re working on a number of ways we can facilitate or incentivize development for the right kind of project,” King said. “We want to make people aware the clinic is here and it’s happening.”

The VIZ Forum is Wednesday, Nov 9, 4 – 6 p.m. on the grounds of the new clinic.

The VA Outpatient Clinic is at 2489 Diplomat Parkway, East.

For more information, contact the Cape Coral Economic Development Office at 574-0444.