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Bimini has potential, good infrastructure deemed key

By Staff | Apr 5, 2018

The much-hoped for redevelopment of Bimini Basin has potential and challenges alike.

The Cape Coral City Council heard the final report on the implementation plan for the area last week, and the board agreed with many that the plan is a good one.

However, issues regarding infrastructure and the fact that parcels are owned by multiple parties could make development troublesome.

The report was brought forth by Redevelopment Management Associates out of Pompano Beach and presented by RMA’s Kevin Crowder who recommended a realistic strategy for attracting private development based on market demand, neighborhood and financing compatibility, and infrastructure viability.

The goal is to preserve access to the waterfront, public spaces, quality of life and community character, enhance water quality, attract younger residents, invest in infrastructure and capitalize on development opportunities, Crowder said.

In the end, the main concerns became about infrastructure, especially the extension of Miromar Street, which Crowder said was crucial to development, and what exactly will go where.

Joe Mazurkiewicz, who looked to provide consulting on the project, but lost out, said RMA did a lot of good things, and had an interesting concept of breaking the project into five sections.

“I think that’s the way the market will react to it. You do a bunch of (requests for proposal) for smaller developments so the private sector can bite off those opportunities,” Mazurkiewicz said. “It brings more people to the table and allows the city to address the infrastructure in small pieces.”

Mark Carrocce, one of the landowners in the Bimini Basin redevelopment area, said the key is to find a developer willing to take on the project and do it right and landowners like himself are waiting for something like that to happen.

“The potential is unbelievable, it’s getting the right developer interested and working with the landowners,” Carrocce said. “The city needs to do more to incentivize developers, whatever it takes. In the long run, they’ll make out in increased property taxes.”

Annette Barbaccia, president of AMB Planning Associates, which represents landowner Tom Cirrincione, said there is lots of potential, especially if connected with downtown.

“It’s a nice plan with a connecting roadway system, the uses work well together and that’s what you want. I think the consultants have embraced that,” Barbaccia said. “Some people are scared by the big picture, but you have to look at it that way.”

Mazurkiewicz said RMA did not do the biggest component, to determine what infrastructure will be needed to support the development based on their projected densities, a cost the city would have to bear.

That part is significant, since infrastructure in that area hasn’t changed since the Rosen brothers started landing planes on what would become Del Prado more than half a centry ago.

“They’ve replaced some utilities on my street the last couple years and repaved that, so they’re doing a lot of that,” Carrocce said.

Of the five parcels, only two are owned by a single entity. The other three are owned by multiple entities, which could present problems, especially since one of them, to the east of Four Freedoms Park, has the most potential, Mazurkiewicz said.

“The assemblage of them will present hurdles to the private sector. The other three aren’t done baking yet,” Mazurkiewicz said. “Assemblage hasn’t to be done before presenting or being made part of the opportunity.”

Barbaccia said whatever is decided will have to go through public review, but with a younger demographic moving in, it should make any decision easier.

“People do better sometimes reacting to a specific plan than an abstract one. The market has to do something that makes sense to it. Downtown has so many tools that can be brought in, like TIF, what has to be implemented into these projects,” Barbaccia said.

Carrocce said one of the things the city needs to consider is to tear down some of the homes around the Yacht Club and replace them with newer ones.

“They need to provide incentive for homebuilders to buy older homes, tear them down and build new ones. They’re doing it now, but the pace has to be accelerated,” Carrocce said. “Build nice homes and the owners are going to want to go to restaurants close by.”

City Councilmember John Gunter said there are many stakeholders that have a desire to develop it, but they are in the beginning stages still.

“Revitalization in the area is a definite need that I would like to see, but we are in the beginning stages, and we as a community need to identify what we want in the area.” Gunter said. “It’s not like Seven Islands, which the city owns. It’s private ownership that will have to come together to make this happen.”

City Manager John Szerlag emphasized Bimini Basin as “a catalyst for the future,” adding “this will change the shape of Cape Coral for the next 50 years.”

Szerlag said he would like city council to authorize him and staff to prepare a request for proposal for the development of Bimini Basin.

He would like to bring a recommendation to city council by October.