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Council decides to move forward with Bimini Basin visioning project

By Staff | May 19, 2015

Cape Coral City Council decided Monday night to keep the Bimini Basin visioning project rolling along by selecting one of three options available.

Council favored “Option C” which means the city accepts all three of the final design concepts from the University of South Florida’s architectural study group and moves forward without additional participation by USF. A Bimini Basin website will be created for citizens to offer feedback while city staff schedules meetings with the two key property owners and other land owners to discuss the vision plan and determine the feasibility of the concepts.

“The people that will really make this work are the developers,” Councilmember Rick Williams said during the discussions. “They are going to decide what goes in down there. We should take the information we have and begin talking to developers to see what they want and can provide there.”

Once the city and land owners come to an agreement on a final vision plan, it would go back through council for approval. If approved, the project would call for a Request For Quote (RFQ) from developers and investors.

“The one thing that has not been addressed down there is the infrastructure issue or lack of infrastructure,” said Councilmember Jim Burch. “That must be included in the collaboration plan. It must be discussed before the RFQ can happen.”

Mayor Marni Sawicki said, “Creating the website is a key element for me, especially for all the snowbirds who might want to give us feedback.”

“I’m so ready to go on to the next step and move forward,” offered Councilmember Lenny Nesta.

No timetable was established for the round of meetings with the land owners and developers.

Other items

Council also discussed another major development in South Cape known as Village Square, which has been discussed since first approved in April 2010 and delayed due to the economy. Developers are seeking to extend a May 2015 deadline until July at which time council will vote on the project’s economic viability. The project also is under an April 2016 deadline to show substantial construction.

Developers met an April 2015 deadline to provide city staff with documentation showing sufficient financing in place for the project.

Staff reviewed those finances and deemed them acceptable.

Developers showed $25.5 million in traditional financing in an equity fund, $28 million in TIF funds and $20 million in equity investments. The financing also includes one component that has yet to be approved by the federal government.

The new federal EB-5 program allows qualified foreign individuals to invest in designated projects. For every 10 jobs created by the project, foreign investors provide $500,000 and in return obtain a green card for entry to the U.S. Village Square expects to generate 1,331 jobs, which gives the project a potential foreign investment of $66.5 million. Developers have submitted an application to the feds and are of the opinion a decision will be forthcoming by the end of the year.

“This project still concerns me because of the EB-5 component,” said Councilmember Rana Erbrick. “However, I am willing to live with the July deadline extension.”

No one on staff or council expects the EB-5 decision to be made before council’s July 20 meeting to consider the economic viability issue, but voted 6-2 to extend the deadline.

Village Square is a $140 million planned development project calling for more than 251,000 square feet of retail, office and restaurant space plus 152 condominium units totaling 380,000 square feet and accompanied by a six story parking ramp.

Council also approved a 3 percent pay raise for City Manager John Szerlag that takes effect on May 29 and runs through the end of the new contract in May 2016.

Council does not meet next Monday in observance of the Memorial Day holiday. Council’s next regular meeting is June 1.