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CRA board discusses streetscape project

By Staff | Aug 23, 2016

The streetscape project for Southeast 47th Terrace that has been talked about for a couple of years consumed a lengthy discussion during Monday’s Community Redevelopment Agency Board of Commissioners meeting at City Hall prior to the City Council meeting.

Cape Coral City Manager John Szerlag, sitting as the CRA executive director, recommends the project be completed along South-east 47th Terrace from Coronado Parkway to Del Prado Boulevard at a total cost estimate of $8.5 million.

Monday night’s request was for the CRA board – Cape Coral City Council members sitting in that capacity – to take the first step by designating up to $500,000 to pay for design services. The money will come from the CRA’s 2017 TIF funds plus designating $2.2 million in 2018 TIF funds for the project.

The $8.5 million figure includes nearly $2 million in utility upgrades which would come from the city’s Water and Sewer fund and, if necessary, a $3.9 million bank loan. A bank loan would be necessary if TIF funds do not increase as anticipated.

TIF, or tax increment financing, funds are tax dollars paid by property owners within the district. TIF is based on increased property valuation within the CRA, essentially the difference between the tax base when the district was formed and current valuations.

Commissioner Rick Williams thinks the project is too extensive and the length shortened.

“Club Square is the central point where everyone is walking around down there,” Williams said. “I agree that we should do something down there, but this only puts more debt on the CRA.”

Commissioner Marni Retzer said, “Yes, it sounds like a lot of money, but think what this would bring to our city. I’m completely committed. The focal point is water, anything we do around the Bimini to improve it is a benefit.”

Commissioner Jessica Cosden said the area desperately needs an upgrade because it hasn’t changed since she was a child.

Szerlag called the project a perfect economic benefit to the city and meets the goal of the CRA by spending capital to eliminate blight.

“I wouldn’t recommend a project if I thought it would bankrupt the CRA,” Szerlag said.

Commissioners approved awarding a contract with low bidder King Landscaping in the amount of $207,000 to complete median landscaping on Cape Coral Parkway from Coronado Parkway to Del Prado Boulevard.

Commissioner Marilyn Stout said she has not changed her position against the improvements because she hates to see the canopy trees “cut down.” She did change to the affirmative when informed that all of the canopy trees that were identified for removal already have been taken out. The canopy trees still standing will remain in the medians.

Plans include new tropical trees, shrubs and ground cover. Work includes installing electrical conduits for future median lighting.

While commissioners did not agree with locating a centralized commercial trash bin enclosure near the center of the parking lot at Club Square, they agreed that something needed to be done to improve the unsightliness of the scattered bins used by businesses there. Business owners have discussed the issue as a group and thought the new location was the most fair to all.

“It would be a travesty to do the streetscape project and then have the Farmer’s Market (at Club Square) die because of Dumpsters,” said Commission Chair Jim Burch.

“I’m not keen on the Dumpsters being in the center of Club Square, but I think we need to think about building bathrooms there at some point,” said Williams.

Commissioner Rana Erbrick suggested the Farmer’s Market should be moved to Southeast 47th Terrace.

When it came time to vote on the project, commissioners approved $150,000 to build the trash bin enclosure and associated landscaping.

Commissioners also selected Janis Keim to fill a vacancy on the CRA Advisory Board as an alternate. Her selection was later approved by City Council during its regular meeting.

Keim was one of two candidates for the position and her long history as a resident, her involvement and familiarity with organizations in the CRA district, and as a former employee of the Parks & Recreation Department was favored by commissioners.