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CRA, city council OK streetscape

By Staff | Dec 12, 2017

Sitting first as the Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency, Cape Coral City Council twice approved the Southeast 47th Terrace streetscape project Monday.

Both boards, which comprised of the same members, said they would look further into areas of controversy, including aiding those with sight impairment navigate the planned roundabout on Vincennes Boulevard and letting businesses know in advance when the next phase of construction is coming to their area.

The boards also unanimously amended the interlocal agreement between the city and the CRA and the project’s construction with the Chris-Tel Company

City Manager John Szerlag called the streetscape project a “generational impact project,” that he hopes will be a game changer for the South Cape.

“It’s going to create an environment of investment and I’m really looking forward to it,” Szerlag said. “This will create jobs and a destination point without having to cross the bridge. It will be close by and something we can be proud of.”

With much of the parking issues apparently resolved, the most important issue became the impact on business while construction was going on.

Szerlag said everyone on the street will be involved with a website and three people dedicated to answering questions from business and property owners regarding the progress.

“My hope is that by next Christmas we’ll be dancing in the street since it will be done by then,” Szerlag said.

The $13 million project is expected to kick off just after the new year and is expected to be finished by the end of next year. The project will extend from Coronado Parkway to Southeast 15th Street, just a few hundred feet from Del Prado.

The streetscape will be more pedestrian friendly, with the width of the pavement greatly reduced to slow cars down and promote travel by foot. The area’s infrastructure, from sewer to water, will be replaced.

There will be three valet stations and a nickel ride, with additional parking at Big John’s and Club Square that is intended to make up for the loss of onstreet parking, a primary bone of contention.

Some accommodations were made for Merrick’s Seafood, which will have three designated short-term and two designated handicapped parking spaces across the street at Big John’s.

Szerlag said from there it will take another 18 months to decide what the next step will be, with one option being the addition of a parking facility.

“When I came here five years ago, I thought the Cape needed a good parking structure in the area of the Big John’s Plaza. As we create this area of investment, I believe there will be old buildings taken down for new construction to suit the streetscape,” Szerlag said. “A parking problem is a good problem to have. We’re the 10th largest city in Florida and it’s time we had a parking structure.”

Another major issue was raised again during public comment. Mike Ulrich, a 30-year Cape resident who lost his sight 13 years ago, asked how those with vision issues will be able to cross the coming Vincennes roundabout.

“As a driver, they’re great. But I don’t drive anymore. I’m blind and they’re a death trap. I need to make sure my parallel traffic is moving. That tells me it’s OK to go,” said Ulrich, who also challenged the members of City Council to join him one day blindfolded and attempt to cross Vincennes when finished.

Szerlag said the roundabout will make it safer by reducing the speed limit and by reducing accidents as opposed to standard intersections. He added that traffic director Bill Corbett and Jeff Hatfield, a consultant for the streetscape, will meet with Ulrich to try to reach a solution to that issue.