County contribution: Cape culls $500,000 for Kismet
The Lee County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday voted to give the city of Cape Coral an additional $500,000 for the completion of the extension of Kismet Parkway and Littleton Road.
The money the city budgeted for that road can now be used to pave Pelican Boulevard. The Westin Resort at Tarpon Point had requested to be released from a paving agreement made by the former owners so plans for a convention center there can move forward.
The county contribution also will allow city residents to the north to use Kismet/Littleton to gain better access to North Fort Myers and the bridges that bring people into Fort Myers.
“We appreciate how the Lee County commissioners and staff worked together and found a way to partner with Cape Coral on this $10 million project,” said City Manager John Szerlag in a statement. “The Westin conference center will have a regional impact and will provide many benefits to Lee County.”
The Westin estimates the conference center should be completed by the end of 2017.
“It’s a long time in coming for the county to partner with us on these things, but better late than never,” Cape Coral Councilmember Jim Burch said. “It’s an economic boost for a part of the county, so that tips the scales in terms of spending money on cities. It not only split between two transportation projects, it’s an economic incentive that will benefit the county.”
Eric Feichthaler, a former mayor of Cape Coral and spokesperson for the Westin ownership, said the South Cape stands to be the big winner, since Pelican had been left out of the big repaving initiative the city has undergone.
“We thought it was important to those at Tarpon Point and the thousands of residents in the area that Pelican get attention like the other roads,” Feichthaler said. “I believe the county should take a more direct role in economic development in the city, and the city had already applied funds to the Littleton project. With the county acting as a partner it allows the city to reallocate those funds.”
Commissioner John Manning said the Kismet project was already in the five-year plan, so the extra funding makes this a win-win for the residents of north and south Cape.
“It lets the city do what it needs to do to gain consideration from the people who will build the convention center,” Manning said. “This was the best route to take.”
Commissioner Brian Hamman said the vote will allow the Cape to open a new route for people to get to and from work in Fort Myers faster. Currently, Littleton stops at the city line, requiring a driver to make a left and a quick right to get onto Kismet.
“An alignment will mean a faster trip to the Edison and Caloosahatchee bridges,” Hamman said. “It’s a great route that people in the Cape are already starting to use and as it’s used more, it will be important to widen Littleton and make sure it’s a straight shot.”
Councilman Richard Leon said Mayor Marni Sawicki and Szerlag did a great job of lobbying the county to take a chance on the Cape and help fund the Littleton/Kismet project.
For Westin owners, it releases them from an agreement made years ago by the developers of the Westin to the city that they would repave Pelican.
“The original developer agreed to pave the road at some point. My client took the property out of receivership and that requirement was on the old developer but the city still wanted the new developer to do that,” Feichthaler said. “The city should take responsibility for the road and they agreed.”
Most important, it also paves the way for the Westin to build a 35,000-square-foot convention center, which will bring more people to the South Cape for concerts and other events.
“We’ll be able to bring in people that we haven’t been able to do before and that will be a big benefit,” Councilmember Rich Leon said. “These people will spend their money in South Cape, fly in from RSW, and everyone will see a positive effect.”
Pelican won’t be paved tomorrow, nor will the Kismet project begin, but the funding will be there when it’s time to pave Pelican, Feichthaler said.
Planning and design at Kismet is set to begin this fiscal year, with the goal to expedite construction to be completed in 2018, Hamman said. The cost is expected to be $3.3 million, with the new alignment including sidewalks and bike lanes.
“I’m glad we found a regionally significant project to partner with Cape Coral on. It will be a great opportunity for residents of Cape Coral and North Fort Myers to find a faster route to Fort Myers,” Hamman said.