Florida Gulf Coast University may soon get the college town feel its students have always wanted.
Private Equity Group, a Fort Myers-based private equity fund, has applied to the Lee County government for zoning approval for a mixed-use development on the 886 acres it owns south of Alico Road and east of Ben Hill Griffin Parkway—according to this article from the Naples Daily News.
And approval for the new site, dubbed CenterPlace, could come by the end of the year.
If it passes muster, the stripped land FGCU President Wilson Bradshaw once described as a “moonscape” will become a walkable town with small shops lining narrow streets, a 250-bed hotel and 30,000-square-foot conference center, offices, research and development space, multifamily housing, parks and other uses.
Right now housing options for students are located off campus and not very convenient if you don’t have a car.
A dock with about two dozen slips is planned to serve a 350-acre man-made lake left over from a previous mining operation. A water taxi is envisioned to shuttle students from the main campus to CenterPlace, which may have classroom space as well as housing options for students.
What to Expect
“It will be nothing like anything else in this area,” promised Don Schrotenboer, president of Private Equity Group.
Adjacent to Miromar Lakes Golf and Beach Club and also next to the university, the proposed venture will take 12 to 15 years to finish. But it will help provide affordable housing for students and employees of the rapidly growing university.
The project is bigger than FGCU’s entire 750-acre site; however, the developer plans to donate 40 acres to FGCU for campus expansion.
Although plans for housing are still in the conceptual stage, Schrotenboer said the market-rate housing will probably range from 950 to 1,500 square feet and units for students will likely be smaller.
About 1,950 units are planned and roughly half of those will be student housing.
A Boost to the Economy
While development costs have yet to be determined, a study by FGCU’s Regional Economic Institute estimated that CenterPlace will provide a boost to the economy of almost $1 billion, with an average annual increase of 771 jobs per year during the development period, according to the article.
However, some people worry that such a substantial project could have some damaging environmental effects, both in terms of habitats for animals currently living on the site and runoff from the new development.
But Schrotenboer said his company will be improving what’s now a disturbed and degraded site from mining operations, and that it will be mitigating wetlands lost to development.
“When we’re done, it will be a place for people to play Frisbee and have farmer’s markets,” he said. “It will be the heart of the community.”
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