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Cape EDO: Essential to business

By Staff | Apr 2, 2020

Cape Coral’s Economic Development Office is still working to bring developments to one of the fastest growing cities in America — and safely.

While the country tries to weather a healthcare and economic storm with COVID-19 present, the city’s EDO is helping businesses stay afloat, get innovative and ensure projects can still maneuver somewhat during this difficult period.

“We’re all being careful. We want to make sure we’re cognizant of people, who are right now are very worried about their well being,” said Cape Coral Economic Development Office Business Recruitment/Retention Specialist, Nita Whaley. “We’re trying to assist our developers as much as possible to make sure that the process is still going through our system. Our planners and everything are still working, they’re just social distancing. But we’re still making it possible for people to get through the planning stages.”

The EDO is in constant contact with local small businesses, the Chamber of Commerce, County EDO and other organizations during this time. Members of the office are virtually attending webinars, exploring all solutions, strategies and looking at communities across the country to find the best practices to employ.

They are conducting conference calls, advisories and using electronic means to stay in touch and keep projects moving as best they can.

“I focus a lot of efforts, and so has all of my economic development team, on providing resources to our local businesses here so that they understand what’s available to them, best practices and how to keep going,” Whaley said.

That involves helping local business owners know the resources at their disposure including grants and loans.

Some have even started to look into how they can create personal protective equipment for local health care employees as a way to stay operational while giving back and helping the front-line workers.

“We have a lot companies that are out there, that are looking for other options,” Whaley said. “I’ve seen some really outstanding things with businesses that have thought outside the box.”

While Whaley and others in the business world are optimistic things will bounce back after virus, she speculated it could take a year to get everything back to normal.

As Cape Coral continues to evolve, development along the Pine Island Road corridor never stops.

Quickly becoming the center of the city’s “booming growth,” Pine Island Road will soon become home to top-of-the-line shopping, office space, and of course, the go-to place to find your next vehicle.

Cape Coral Commons, a $20 million mixed-use development is slated to begin construction later this month at the corner of Del Prado Boulevard and Pine Island Road, where the old Circle K was located.

Thompson Thrift Retails Group (TTRG), a business unit of Indianapolis-based Thompson Thrift, purchased the 13 acres with plans to construct approximately 50,000 square-feet of single-level, multi-tenant retails space.

Some names you can expect to see at the location include First Watch, Tire Kingdom, Firehouse Subs and Encore Nails.

Developers believe the rapid growth of Cape Coral, combined with a location that sees more than 30,000 cars traveling past each day, makes this a great opportunity.

“Cape Coral has been one of the country’s fastest growing cities for the past few years,” said Ryan Menard, vice president of Development for TTRG, in a release. “We look forward to working closely with the city and future tenants to develop a project with strategic purpose and skilled design. Our hope is that it will bring much-needed redevelopment to this key intersection, while providing additional amenities and employment opportunities for this rapidly growing local economy.”

The development site is an assemblage of 15 parcels.

“We’re really excited about that development,” Whaley said. “They’re going to bring some much needed new retail and restaurants and services onto that corridor.”

Two outparcel lots are currently for sale on the property, available for free-standing developments such as a carwash or medical building.

Whaley spoke to the focus of Pine Island Road when it comes to economic development in the city.

“Pine Island Corridor, because it is the center of Cape Coral, is very, very important to us,” Whaley said. “It has the most potential, the most amount of developable land — as far as that’s ready for development.”

There’s still about 300 acres of developable land along the corridor. Whaley said that’s a hot spot for national developers, in part, because city water and sewer services are already operational.

Whaley said there is currently half-a-million in investments along Pine Island Road working to some capacity during the outbreak.

The “spine of the Cape” is an important part of getting the commercial tax base into double digits, Whaley said. Currently, around 8 percent of the city has been developed with a “commercial” tag. The EDO hopes to hit that double digits in three to five years.

One of the area’s largest recent land sale deals also took place recently when Highway 17 Industrial LLC purchased the 53.71 acres at 2707-2801 Pine Island Road for $2.5 million. SFI Eagle Land LLC was the seller in the transaction.

“At 53-plus acres, this marks the latest large land acquisition in the immediate area over the last several months,” said Michael Price, ALC, land director at LandQwest Commercial, who brokered the deal, in a release. “This exemplifies the positive outlook (land) buyers have in this area, and the serious potential for continued growth.”

Future plans for the site have not been announced at this time.

The site was purchased on a 1031 Exchange, meaning it will be at least a year until work can begin.

“As far as the development is concerned, we’ve reached out to them and offered to help in any way we can,” Whaley said. “We’re excited about that piece of property, but it will be at least a year out to hear what they’re going to do.”

– Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj