- September 23, 2019
A trio of projects planned for Cape Coral’s sleepy shopping district are seen as the first stage to transforming the city from Cape Coma to Cape Cool.
Those are the words of Cape Coral City Manager Rob Hernandez — a sentiment shared by city and business leaders who see these three planned developments for the South Cape area as a huge step forward.
The projects are seen as a way to infuse energy into the area and to create a nightlife that will keep people — and their dollars — from having to leave the city to search for fine dining or a place to hang out in the evening. This change, leaders say, will help attract young people to the area as well as companies that will bring jobs and give people already there a reason not to leave town.
“I think the themes I heard today are cool, fun, things like that,” Hernandez says. “I think you see that our private investors are coming to the plate and are investing heavily in this great city. But the city is investing heavily as well.”
Hernandez was speaking Nov. 9 at Cape Coral’s Catch the Vision event, a gathering aimed at showcasing projects across the city either under construction or in the pipeline. The event highlighted workforce, affordable and senior housing projects, as well industrial expansions, health care projects and retail additions.
But the biggest buzz centered on the projects coming to South Cape, including:
South Cape, according to the South Cape Community Redevelopment Agency, “encompasses an area bounded by Del Prado Boulevard westward to Palm Tree Boulevard (about 1 mile in length) and north-south from S.E. 46th Street southward to Miramar Boulevard.” (Cape Coral is in southwest Lee County.)
The agency paints the area as bustling with restaurants featuring all-star chefs, shops and festivals. And that may be partially true. But to many locals and outsiders, particularly those who've spent time in places like downtown Fort Myers or Sarasota, it seems more like a traditional shopping district in desperate need of a spark and an identity.
The first sign that not much special is in the offing is as you drive into South Cape, coming off the Cape Coral Bridge across the Caloosahatchee River: the initial intersection you reach has two banks, a fast food restaurant and a Holiday Inn Express.
A little farther down Cape Coral Parkway you do run into a pocket of local establishments with a tiny bit of flare, including a café with a mid-morning crowd sitting outside and Ollie’s Pub — Records and Beer. But directly across the street is a shopping center with a Winn-Dixie, Panera Bread and Ace Hardware — identical to thousands across the nation.
It's the same along the entire strip, with fast food joints and chain stores alongside the occasional local restaurant or Realtor’s office. On one corner, a radio installation shop and a locksmith sit next to a cabinet maker.
As for those looking for a nightlife, the pickings are slim.
The hope, at least among most of those who spoke Nov. 9, is these three projects will begin, over time, to change the dull, tired scene one experiences walking down the street, the feeling you could be Anywhere, U.S.A. rather than somewhere special, with personality and individuality.
Bill Johnson, executive director of the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association, says a project like Cove at 47th “sets us alongside of a lot of your major cities — your Naples, your Coconut Point, your Mercato.”
“This is truly going to give us a mixed-use look that’s going to allow people to live downtown in an entertainment district and still bring additional businesses…and create jobs that will bring people into our area.”
But it's not just the tastemakers of Cape Coral who say change is needed. Andy D’Souza recently moved to Cape Coral from New Jersey. D’Souza, 47, lives on 46th Street, and likes that South Cape is quiet. But, he believes, a jolt is needed.
“I think it would be nice. I think it would bring a lot of people down. It’s pretty great now, but it’ll bring more life to the area."