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Officials present long-term vision for the South Cape

By Staff | Sep 12, 2019

Imagine a downtown where people can live, work and play, all within walking distance from your home.

That is the vision city officials have for the South Cape, and on Thursday, dozens of stakeholders gathered at the Vineyard Church on Southeast 47th Terrace to hear about the future plans for the area at a workshop as a way to whet their appetites for what could be golden opportunities in an area ripe for development.

Cape Coral City Manager John Szerlag welcomed visitors and told them about the recent history of the South Cape, while Economic Development Manager Ricardo Noguera explained how people need to know what the goals are for the South Cape.

“I want the community to know Downtown Cape is open for business and we welcome development in the South Cape and beyond,” Noguera said. “Over the next few years, we have a half-billion dollars of private development, about a dozen projects in the works. The ultimate goal is to decrease the migration of the workforce across the bridge.”

There are already some projects under way, such as Skybar, the four-story office building that includes a restaurant, office space and a bar, and Village Square, a project years in the making about to finally begin.

Also speaking at the two-hour event were Keith White, president of Reinhold P. Wolff Economic Research, who discussed the results of a multi-family study they conducted which stated the city, and especially downtown, is badly in need of quality workforce housing, especially for millennials.

There was some concern regarding affordable housing, which Noguera said is a different subject. Concern was especially given toward veterans and older retirees who are falling out of the market where the rent is climbing toward $1,500 a month or more.

“Is affordable housing going to be acceptable down here because they’re talking about rents in the $1,400 range, which our veterans can’t afford,” said Ralph Santillo, founder of Invest in America’s Veterans, which runs the military museum in the South Cape. “We’re trying to figure out where we fit.”

Noguera said there are very few tools in the South Cape to provide subsidized housing.

Art Castellanos, president of Castellanos & Tramonte Architects, discussed schematics for mixed-use building, while Vince Cautero, Cape Coral’s director of community development, discussed the new building standards designed to make the city’s development fast, fair and predictable.

Noguera also discussed the potential for the undeveloped tracts in the South Cape and the incentives to build there, such as TIF rebates, stormwater credits, job creation rebates, impact fee discounts and more.

Szerlag was happy with the way things went.

“Staff did a great job and it’s always great to get input from the community and advise the development community on what we have to assist in and be partners in development,” Szerlag said.

Stakeholders were also very impressed by the opportunities the South Cape has to offer.

“Being a resident here and a real estate investor, driving around Cape Coral, that’s all you see going up,” said Ryan Meyer, a mortgage broker. “I was under the impression they were overbuilding multi-family. It’s great to hear the facts that it isn’t the case.”

Christopher Spiro, of Spiro & Associates, has had his offices in Fort Myers for years, but if the South Cape fulfills its promise, Spiro, a nearly 50-year resident of Cape Coral, could see himself moving home to work, although it will take time.

“You see the positive can-do attitude of Cape Coral and its officials and it’s amazing. People have to understand these things don’t happen simultaneously of quickly,” Spiro said. “In order to get from Point A to Point B, it will take some pioneers to take some arrows in the back by going against the grain to start changing the atmosphere.”