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Ceremony to mark CRA successes

By Staff | Sep 12, 2012

A ceremony planned this morning will mark the completion of a renovated green space and the underground transmission line in the South Cape.

The Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency and the city will host a dedication at 10 a.m. at Founders Park, at 929 S.E. 46th Lane. The space is formerly known as Malaga Canal Park. Residents are encouraged to attend.

“It’s just wonderful to see this little park here for the neighborhood,” CRA Executive Director John Jacobsen said.

He explained that the whole idea of creating “a sense of place” within a downtown area or an urban area is creating something for everyone.

“Right now, we rely on special events to bring people down here. We need things that cause people to want to be here all the time,” Jacobsen said. “We’re trying to create a place where you want to get out, walk and enjoy.”

There will be speakers at the event, and dignitaries are expected to attend. The park was renamed in an effort to recognize the Cape’s early pioneers.

“There’s still about 100 of them, and we invited them,” he said.

The event also will recognize the completion of the Southeast 46th Lane underground transmission line. Construction, which began in early 2011, was finished in early 2012 and cost about $4.5 million, according to Jacobsen.

The city borrowed the funding, which the CRA will pay back over 13 years.

“It preserves the value of all the properties on that street,” he said. “Property values increase when you have them underground.”

Jacobsen explained that underground lines have a better aesthetic quality, plus it is less likely potential developers would want to construct projects like expensive condos or offices next to a high-voltage, 75-foot grey metal pole.

“Transmission lines in an urban area just don’t work – we see these as a blighting influence,” he said. “It would have an influence for blocks.”

By having the line underground, it opens to door to more development.

Karen Ryan, spokeswoman for Lee County Electric Cooperative, explained that the installation of the power line was about 10 years in the making.

“The project was needed to increase reliability for the customers in Cape Coral, so we are just thrilled that it’s complete now,” she said.

“It gives us and our customers a peace of mind,” Ryan added.

Before the project, there was one substation feeding the area.

“If anything were to occur on that transmission line, I think, 20,000 customers would have been out of service,” she said.

“This section of transmission line now ties the two lines together, so now if something were to occur on that transmission line – some sort of outage – we could reroute the power from the other direction,” Ryan said.

She called the project a good example of entities working together.

“And it all benefits the residents of Cape Coral,” Ryan said.

During the project, LCEC used Malaga Canal Park as the staging area.

“When they vacated the site, it was the perfect opportunity for us to go in and fund turning it into the park that we envisioned it to be,” Jacobsen said.

The CRA, which bought the land about a decade ago, put $40,000 into it.

“The city is very pleased that the CRA had the vision to acquire this property years ago,” Parks and Recreation Director Steve Pohlman said.

“With CRA resources, as well as a small amount from the city, we were able to provide a very nice vista along the canal within the downtown district,” he said.

Referred to as a vest pocket park, the city put in a walking path, sod and landscaping. The total project took from about February to early June.

“It gives people an opportunity to find respite away from parking lots and buildings,” Pohlman said. “It’s been very well received by the neighbors.”

Jacobsen agreed, explaining that a nearby day care facility uses it.

“They take the kids out there, and they kick balls around and play in the park,” he said. “It’s being actively used.”

The renovated park contains benches, a sign and plaque. According to Jacobsen, future plans for the space may include a gazebo, bike racks and inlaid bricks that people can pay for and have engraved for loves ones.

A similar program exists for military at the Eco Park war memorial.

“We have some rough plans,” he said.

Pohlman noted that the park has a dock where boats can pull up.

“It does provide a unique opportunity for boaters to come from the canal system to the downtown area, very similar to Four Freedoms Park,” he said.