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Catch the Vision: Cape has multiple projects in the queue

By Staff | Nov 20, 2014

Despite heavy winds and falling temperatures, this year’s fourth annual “Catch the Vision” event, organized by Raso Realty, was sold out and standing-room only Tuesday night. The biting cold moved vendors and presenters from the lawn into the Cape Christian Fellowship church at 2110 Chiquita Boulevard, but the enthusiasm generated by the positive economic forecast for Cape Coral remained undampened.

Sixteen local vendors showcased their products and services at the tradeshow, which began at 5 p.m., and at 6:30 p.m., Mayor Pro Tem John Carioscia took the stage to thank everyone for coming. Following the introduction of sponsors, community partners and vendors, the first of 14 presenters took the stage. Each described a current project under way in Cape Coral that promises to help spur economic growth in the Cape.

Cape Christian pastor Wes Furlong announced the opening of the American Health and Wellness Center on Cape Coral Parkway and Del Prado Boulevard. As part of a growing Cape Coral “network of hospitality, both in homes and ministries,” whose mission is to provide resources and support for at-risk families and children, the center will offer emergency help to underprivileged families, including temporary, emergency placement in homes for kids in crisis.

Matt Beder, general manager of the new Culver’s restaurant in Cape Coral, and LaVonne Daveler, district manager, earned a round of applause with the surprise announcement that a second Culver’s will be opening soon at the new Sam’s Club on Pine Island Road.

John Szerlag, Cape Coral city manager and executive director of the South Cape Community Redevelopment Agency, spoke to the need for a city to have a vision for its future. In support of Cape Coral’s vision of being “a vibrant waterfront community that is the center of opportunity in southwest Florida,” he has initiated a number of new programs, including the allocation of money every year to maintain Cape Coral’s existing 3000 miles of city streets; the introduction of a rolling, three-year budget for capital, organizational and community infrastructures, including an electronic permitting program to eliminate bottle-necking in the issuance of permits; and the creation of a detailed revenue model that has brought new revenue sources to the city.

The new Sam’s Club, opening soon at 814 SW Pine Island Road, announced its donation of $15,000 to the City of Cape Coral Charter Schools, and the commitment to employ 200 people at the club. Sam’s Club promises to be an active business, civic and non-profit partner in the Cape Coral community.

Nadja Brummer, a Century 21, German referral broker, who specializes in international home buyers, presented the trends in foreign investments on the Cape.

“Cape Coral is very popular with international home buyers, and we are one of the top destinations for them in Florida,” she stated, adding that 45 percent of home buyers in the Cape are from Canada and 14 percent from Germany. The statistics Brummer provided in relation to foreign buyers’ purchasing preferences and methods, to their design and location preferences, and to the uses they make of their property are valuable tools for city planners, real estate brokers, and businesses. Bringing in foreign visitors and buyers is big business; by marketing online in 13 languages and 36 currencies, Century 21 is attracting visitors and investors to Cape Coral from an ever-widening international market.

William Hecht described Cape Coral’s newest gated community-Bella Vista at Kismet Lakes off Burnt Store Road. The 28 estate homes on half-acre lots will occupy 59 acres enhanced with spring-fed lakes and nature trails for walking, biking and running.

“The developers are so encouraged with what’s going on (in Cape Coral), they have allowed a home-trading program,” Hecht announced. Home buyers will be able to trade in their old homes as a down payment on new ones at Bella Vista.

Rob Fowler, president of Fowler Construction and Development, gave attendees a Cape commercial prospective for the immediate future, showing that commercial growth is up 10 percent this year over last year.

“Ten point six million was put into construction in Cape Coral this year, over half of which was Sam’s Club,” he said.

The trend for investment by national organizations continues up with retailers dominating and Pine Island Road is the No. 1 place to be.

Del Prado locations are gaining value, but, Fowler warns, Del Prado sellers should not have unrealistic expectations, and Cape Coral Parkway is gaining interest, but it’s not on the hot list yet.

“Patience is the key word. Sellers, your property is not worth $200 a square foot yet. Markets are improving, but not that fast. Hold onto your land, or price it realistically so we can get things going. Buyers, cheap is gone. Developers, cheap is gone. Construction prices are not going down any time soon. We’ve got significant labor shortages and materials are going up in price. Plan accordingly.”

The 12-month forecast is more convenience stores and fuel stations, more big box retailers. Assisted living facilities are still hot and a lifestyle shopping center is coming. “The worst of the recession is over. Clear skies are coming, high pressure system continuing.”

Edward Schiff, top broker for and owner of Schiff Realty, described two projects under way with Langer Construction: Sands Estates, which includes 10 luxury, semi-custom homes on 10-13,000-square-foot lots, and a 52-unit, luxury condominium complex on Cape Coral Parkway.

Dana Brunett, economic development director for the city of Cape Coral, enthusiastically announced that, in addition to Sam’s Club and Starbucks and Culver’s, the city has brought in the Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery to Southwest 3rd Place in Cape Coral. The distillery, he said, brought in 10,000 tourists last year. The city is now working to bring in microbreweries and brew pubs.

“People travel all over the country to visit them. Why not here?” Brunett said that his office is working on 118 projects, including a health park on Pine Island Road and 24th Street, and a mixed-use development project for the northwest Cape. He named the retailers slated for the renovated Coralwood shopping center: a home store, Michael’s and Ulta cosmetics. His office is also working very hard to bring in Indian Motorcycles, a destination retailer.

“Our biggest import is people,” Brunett pointed out. “We’ve got to keep building things so people have something to do. Our biggest priority is to turn vacationers into residents, and we don’t want them to come here and just buy a house; we want them to bring their businesses with them.”

Gary Aubuchon, creator of the Aubuchon Team of (home-buying and home-building) Companies, reported that all of last year’s predictions for new construction have come true. The value of new, single-family homes is up year over year, construction permits are increasing about 31 percent year over year, and annual median house sales in the Cape Coral metropolitan area are up 8.8 percent in the third quarter of this year. Aubuchon pointed out that as a result of this growth, we have a labor shortage “that’s going to drive up costs and production times. We really need to solve this problem because when new business comes to the area and looks at the length of time it takes to build something, they may go somewhere else.”

He added that the continuing rise of construction costs, however, will drive up the value of resale homes, also. “Expect some really awesome things in 2015.”

Henry Albrecht, broker and owner of Gulf Gateway Realty, updated attendees on The Resort at Tranquility Lake, at Burnt Store Road and Durden Parkway. The project is a “five-star, luxury resort for class A-motor coach owners,” These motor coaches are “condos on wheels,” costing between $400,000 and $2.5 million.

“The RV industry is booming. The people who are buying these coaches need a fun place to park them and spend their money,” he said.

Construction is expected to begin around this time next year.

David Cato, vice president of outpatient operations for Lee Memorial Health System, announced that Lee Memorial has acquired 5 acres at Veterans Parkway and Surfside for an outpatient medical facility that will include primary care providers, radiology, X-ray, breast cancer and lab draw services. With this center, he said, “we are embracing an optimal healing environment, connecting nature with the patient in a more holistic approach to caring for patients, staff and the community.”

Ground breaking is expected next month, with a grand opening scheduled for August of 2015.

Kevin Ahmadi, executive director of operations with Gulf Coast Village, described the new facility. A 25-year-old, non-profit, continuing care retirement community, Gulf Coast Village occupies 36 acres and consists of 156 independent living apartments, 47 assisted living apartments, 24 assisted living, memory support apartments, 85 skilled nursing beds, a certified home health agency, and outpatient rehabilitation. Gulf Coast is also the first continuing care retirement community in Florida to deliver a contract for life-care in one’s personal home. Over the past 18 months, Gulf Coast has spent $ 2.4 million on renovations and in June they will break ground on a 128-unit, 145,000-square-foot assisted living facility that will bring $28 million to Cape Coral construction businesses.

Melinda and Ian Mack of the South Florida Canoe and Kayak Club described the international paddle sport facility coming to a 12-acre site just north of SunSplash. Local business partners for this non-profit, privately funded park include the Council for Progress, the City of Cape Coral, Manhattan Construction, Goodwill Industries and the Sports Facility Advisory Group. The SFCKC will train youth and adults in the international sport of canoeing and kayaking, but will provide training in other water sports as well. The facility will include a boat house, physical therapy and weight rooms specific to water sports, men and women’s locker rooms, a 250-capacity conference room, a yoga studio, and athlete housing, which, Mack says, “sets us apart from all other like facilities all over the world.”

The SFCKC hopes to draw national and international visitors with water sport, football, soccer, baseball, and cycling tournaments and “any other sport you can think of.” The SFCKC also will fund programs for special populations, such as at-risk youth. Mack says that they are in conversation with the U.S. Olympic Committee to offer training facilities to Olympic athletes at the park. This $22.5 million project will bring not only athletes to Cape Coral, suggests Mack, but also the families and friends who accompany them. Ancillary benefits include the employment of 40 to 50 people, increased tax revenues for the city and county, and increased revenues for the local hospitality industry, retailers and other businesses.