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Cape interstate exchange ‘decades off,’ residents told

By Staff | Apr 6, 2013

Area residents attending the North Fort Myers Community Planning Panel annual Town Hall meeting this week got on update on a number of local projects, including the long-hoped for Cape Coral/North Fort Myers interstate exchange.

Attendees learned the project is likely still a good ways off.

An interchange on I-75 for Del Prado Boulevard is decades away, since the exits in between don’t have many problems handling traffic, said Andy Getch, planning manager for the Lee County Department of Transportation.

“The in-between exits are Bayshore Road and Tucker’s Grade. You must demonstrate a problem from the north and south,” Getch said. “Tucker’s Grade is looking good for years to come.”

Among the hot topics during the two-hour meeting were the plans for a new assisted living facility, plans for the proposed Town Hall Center on U.S. 41, county transportation and an update on the projected regional library.

Developer James Herston unveiled his plans for an assisted living facility, tentatively called Gardens of Fort Myers, which will be built on 6.22 acres on U.S. 41, south of the Shell Factory.

“The facility would assist seniors with their daily lives. It’s not a medical facility, it’s an apartment-type facility with 89 beds,” Herston said. “There would be no kitchens, just a bedroom, living room, and bathroom.”

Herston said he expected rezoning, permitting and design work through this year, with completion by the end of 2014.

Tony Palermo, senior planner for the Lee County Zoning Division, discussed the plans to implement a North Fort Myers Town Center south of Pondella Road.

The town center would contain shops, restaurants, green space and pedestrian-friendly streets over 70 acres, with the main focal point being the area near Hancock Bridge Parkway, where a shopping center across the street sits with empty storefronts.

“We would encourage Key West or cracker-style houses, Caribbean Style and Colonial,” Palermo said, who added such a development is still years, even decades, in the making.

Getch, who discussed the Transportation Element of the Lee Plan and transportation projects coming to North Fort Myers, touched on other projects.

There’s not much, just the proposed realignment of Kismet and Littleton roads to match up with the curve planned for 2016-17 and some sidewalk and lighting projects coming for SR78 current construction on Interstate 75.

As far as Thom Osterhout, senior manager of Lee County Utilities, introduced himself during his first meeting and answered general questions from the dozen or so at the meeting.

Also, Linda Yorde of the Friends of the North Fort Myers Public Library gave an update on the current status of the task force and its hopes to have the county build a new library facility in North Fort Myers.