Estero to Study Future Development in Commercial Corridors

The Estero Council of Community Leaders (ECCL) has contracted with nationally known consultants Seth Harry and Associates, Inc., Architects and Planners of Frederick, Maryland, to help plan for the future development of Estero’s many large vacant commercial properties.

The first step in this process was an Estero Market Assessment and Repositioning Strategy Workshop, which took place in Estero in late March 2013. The purpose of that workshop was to discuss initial findings related to the Estero real estate market in light of recent and ongoing demographic trends, particularly with regard to the amount of land currently approved for retail development, and to outline a course of action in response to those trends moving forward.

The next step continues the emphasis on researching and understanding Estero’s future commercial market. The consultants will complete the following tasks for the Estero community:

·        Assess the existing and anticipated future demand for retail consumption in the Estero area, relative to that which exists and is currently zoned and approved for retail development, and document any potential oversupply.

·        Based on an analysis of past, present, and future industry development and employment trends in Estero, identify other potential uses for already-entitled parcels which may achieve more immediate and long-term market viability.   This work will include an inventory of existing business and available land, and will take the form of a business needs assessment intended to identify the types of businesses Estero may want to attract and grow in the future, particularly in relation to the possible hospital and university districts.

·        Meet with representative property owner candidates and institutional users most likely to immediately benefit from a reconsideration of their respective properties on the basis of the above market reevaluation and repositioning analysis to discuss possible alternative redevelopment scenarios.

Phase Two

Assuming a positive outcome from Phase One, the consultant team will undertake one or more conceptual planning studies intended to evaluate the physical and market feasibility of rezoning those properties for the proposed new uses.

While the level of resolution and the number of those studies will be subject to the funding allocated for this phase of work, it is assumed this work will proceed incrementally, starting with the property most likely to pursue redevelopment first and continuing from there as time and resources allow.

2.1  Working with the above mentioned key property owners and institutional representatives, produce schematic development plans for strategic sites along the corridor to help illustrate and define a credible, market-driven approach to repositioning and diversifying Estero’s economy.

2.2  Upon completion of Phase Two, Task 2.1, the Team will meet collectively to evaluate and weigh the market and strategic benefits of a development approach more directly aligned with future market trends, as well recent Lee County growth policies intended to build a more resilient and sustainable region, and document the net potential advantages associated with such an alternative approach.

As they begin this work, the consultants welcome suggestions and information from all Estero land owners and developers and all interested Estero residents. These comments can be directed to the consultants at contact@sethharry.com.

The report produced by this research phase will become available to the ECCL and the residents of Estero about the middle of June.

Seth Harry and Associates, Inc., provides in-depth experience in the design, master planning, and implementation of sustainable neighborhood developments, new and infill mixed-use developments and community revitalization plans and strategies, transit-oriented developments (TODs), and waterfront destination shopping, dining, and entertainment mixed-use complexes, both domestically and abroad. For additional information, go to sharry@sethharry.com. They will be assisted in this effort by Peloton Research, Inc.

Background

In the nine years between 2000 and 2008 commercial developers invested over $720 million in Estero. This investment expanded Estero’s commercial, mainly retail, base from about 500,000 square feet to about 4.3 million square feet. About half of that space is in Coconut Point and the Miramar Outlets Center.

During this fast growth period Lee County, assisted by the Estero Community Planning Panel (ECPP), rezoned a total of 11.5 million square feet of commercial space, about two-thirds of it rezoned for retail use.

Since the summer of 2008 commercial development in Estero has come to a standstill. Between 2008 and 2012 commercial investment in Estero totaled about $43 million, less than 9% of the total for the prior four years. As a result for the last four years travelers on US 41 and Corkscrew Road see about two thirds of the adjacent land, over 1,000 acres, vacant, cleared and ready for development but with no development activity.

Up to now Estero’s commercial development has been consistently first class in layout, architecture and design and landscaping. The ECCL and the community planning organizations, the ECPP and the Estero Design Review Committee (EDRC), are committed to achieving that level of quality for all future commercial developments.

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