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CRA plan to get new review

By Staff | Mar 7, 2019

The redevelopment plan for Cape Coral’s old downtown is getting another look.

On April 15, the Cape Coral City Council will consider an amended 2019 Community Redevelopment Agency’s redevelopment plan that calls for additional improvements.

The CRA board met Tuesday to introduce the amended plan and, on Wednesday, the Local Planning Agency had its chance to look at it. The CRA will meet again on April 2 for its final meeting.

As tendered, the findings say that while the $13 million in streetscape improvements to Southeast 47th Terrace provides a boost to the area, there are many additional obstacles the South Cape has to overcome.

Issues include the quality of the public realm and the balance between pedestrian and vehicular areas, which is poor in many areas of the district, which includes Cape Coral Parkway from Del Prado Boulevard.

Also, the size of the lots within the CRA are small, making it difficult to assemble them to make a larger project, and a high percentage of vacant land, coupled with an overabundance of suburban style surface parking lots, negatively impacts the character of the CRA.

Parking in particular remains an issue, as much of the CRA’s land resources are devoted to it.

While parking is abundant, there is a perception it is lacking, and the presence of abundant impervious parking areas significantly diminishes the character of the CRA as an urban destination while diminishing the walkability of South Cape, the analysis states

In the entertainment district, these issues are more magnified, according to the report.

The length of the block near Big John’s is approximately 1,400 feet long, about 2.5 times the length of a typical city block. This creates a “connectivity issue” in the South Cape. Also, the scale and character of Big John’s parking lot creates a “dead zone” and discontinuity in the district, and its physical layout and the size of parking spaces, is inefficient.

“In summary, the area is not designed to be a vibrant, pedestrian friendly urban place; it is designed first and foremost to provide convenient parking,” the report states.

Councilmember John Gunter, whose district includes the South Cape, said he understands the issue and that the CRA needs to decide how to address it, especially with the parking garage, which has been discussed for years.

“I know they’ve been talking about a parking garage. They had some ballpark on reconstructing the parking lot at Big John’s and Iguana Mia’s and for a 300-space parking garage,” Gunter said. “They’re going to have to talk about that, and if they decide to put in a parking garage, where are you going to put it?”

He has taken note of some other issues as well.

“Among the things I noticed was the pedestrian walkover from 47th Terrace to where Bimini Basin may be for accessibility between the two over Cape Coral Parkway,” Gunter said. “They wanted to add that to the plan or they wouldn’t be able to do it.”

The plan is to make the area a place for people instead of for cars, which can be achieved by redesigning the parking lot to act as a “unifying space” within South Cape, rather than a space that serves to disconnect it.

This can be done by creating a central space that links Big John’s with 47th Terrace and supports regular events and adding landscaping elements, the report states.

Other changes proposed in the plan include the reestablishment of a separate board, the incorporation of policy related to the Bimini Basin mooring field, removal of any reference to restoring the old golf course to a viable course and including the redevelopment of the golf course for recreation, centralized waste receptacles, adding hospitality and entertainment to community policing and more.

The sunset provision for the CRA is also expected to be extended from 2035 to 2047, the maximum time allowed under Florida Statutes for a CRA, which gets its funding from tax increment financing, a type of property tax share within the district.