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Village Square project could face more delays

By Staff | May 7, 2020

A long-awaited development proposed for the South Cape could again be delayed.

The developers of Downtown Village Square, a project that has seen delays that have stretched out more than a decade, are again seeking an amendment that would again modify the phasing schedule and conditions of approval.

According to a city staff report, a building at 851 Cape Coral Parkway remains on the project site which has two existing businesses, an insurance company and a retail business.

The lease terminates on Nov. 30, and the tenant wishes to stay in the building throughout the term of this lease.

Annette Barbaccia, president of AMB Planning Consultants, which is representing the developers, Downtown Village Square LLC, said the extension has been sought because the owner, Robbie Lee, lives on Long Island and doesn’t want to travel with the virus going around.

“He has health conditions, especially his heart, and has been advised by his doctor not to travel. We would like the city to switch it to July so he doesn’t expose himself,” Barbaccia said. “There are 75,000 cases there, so it’s a different animal there.”

The building in question occupies part of the area where Building “A” was approved to be constructed, and several benchmarks pertain to that building, including submittal of building plans, for which the deadline passed March 31. The building was set to be demolished no later than April 30. The developer wishes the building to remain until July 31, 2022.

Substantial construction on Building “A” was expected by July 1 and the certificate of completion no later than June 30, 2021.

The applicant proposes moving the construction of Building “B” from Phase II and Phase I of the project. All deadlines for Building B would be those originally set for Building A.

“It’s not a very complicated request. We have building plans ready to go. The difference is that Building ‘A’ would be an office building, while Building ‘B’ would be mixed use,” Barbaccia said. “I know it’s gone through some iterations but they wanted to be sensitive to the tenants. Maybe we’ve gone through this one too many times.”

City staff has recommended the Cape Coral City Council deny the amendment. The Hearing Examiner in March also recommended denial.

Councilmember John Carioscia said he would do what the staff recommends.

“I have no particular opinion and can only go with what staff tells me. If they tell me to give them an extension, I’ll do that. If they say no, it’s no,” Carioscia said. “Once there is a discussion, things can change. Some people will bring things up and it’ll change things. At this point, the answer is no.”

The hearing for Downtown Village Square was set to come before Council on March 16, but was pushed back because of the pandemic.

Barbaccia said she would like to have it further continued until some time after Council returns from hiatus in July, when Lee believes it will be safer to come to Florida.

She added that the virus could change the inside of Building “B,” which was slated to include a theater.

“It wouldn’t be a movieplex. It would only take up a small part of the building. We could take that area and make it into something else,” Barbaccia said.

Downtown Village Square is a mixed-use planned development project on 3.94 acres at Cape Coral Parkway and Southeast 47th Terrace.

At buildout, the proposed development will contain a maximum of 251,546 square feet of nonresidential/retail space and 152 residential units.

This project was originally approved by City Council in 2010 and required that substantial construction commence within two years.

However, this requirement has been extended seven times. After the last extension last year, some members on Council expressed they were running out of patience with the developer.

Benchmarks were established to make sure the developers stuck to a schedule of tasks that needed to be completed, with failure resulting in the PDP becoming null and void.