Feature: Estero Economic Excellence Outreach Council Part II: Village Center Development and Implementation

In December, the Estero Economic Excellence Outreach Council (EEEOC) held its second organizational meeting with special guest Dr. Mike Martin, president of Florida Gulf Coast University at FGCU’s Emerging Technology Center. Discussion centered on recruiting experienced businesspeople of Estero to serve as mentors for the university’s rapidly expanding Entrepreneurship Program. However, this is just one objective of the EEEOC. The organization also aims to partner with the Village of Estero, Lee Health and the Southwest Florida development community to implement a Village Center which aligns with the vision of Estero’s residents.

This vision was developed and defined through a series of public workshops and planning meetings which culminated in Village Council adopting a Comprehensive Plan amendment and Land Development Code standards for the Village Center in June 2016. Before the Village’s incorporation, the ECCL started planning for a “Village Center” about six years ago as the region was emerging from the Great Recession. The Village Center’s fruition remains of great importance to the ECCL and will be one of three major initiatives of the newly formed EEEOC.

This month’s feature article focuses on the southern portion of the Village Center, which is emerging as a health and wellness district, anchored by the new Lee Health Coconut Point facility scheduled to open in November 2018.

The next EEEOC meeting will be Jan. 29 at 10 a.m. at the Estero Recreation Center in Estero Community Park. Additionally, the ECCL Health Committee will meet Jan. 30 with guest Dr. Larry Antonucci, new President of Lee Health.

Village Center Overview

In June 2016, the Village of Estero adopted boundaries and development standards for about 500 acres designated as the future “Village Center.” Zoning in these areas encourages mixed use developments with “complete” streets for bikes and pedestrians, and a mix of residential, office, retail and industrial uses. The Village Center boundaries include a northern portion and a southern portion. North Village Center focuses on potential civic and culture uses and runs along U.S. 41 to the east from just north of Corkscrew Road down to Williams Road. The south Village Center area focuses on healthcare and wellness, running along U.S. 41 near Coconut Road (west and south of the mall).

Village Center South: Health District

Most of the current development activity is in the Village Center’s southern section. It is anchored by the $140 million, 163,500 square-foot Lee Health Coconut Point facility currently under construction south of Coconut Road and east of U.S. 41, which features a 24/7 emergency department and may become a fully functioning hospital in the future. Additionally, Lee Health recently made some land purchases in the area for future development. In total, Lee Health owns about 33 acres on the east side of U.S. 41 (south of Coconut Road) and about 40 acres on the west side of U.S. 41 (north of Coconut Road), said Suzanne Bradach, Lee Health’s Director of Special Projects.

The facility under construction includes 146,000 square feet of medical space, plus a central energy plant. It is being designed with “Phase Two” in mind, which would convert 76,000 square feet of “institutional space” into an 80-bed hospital tower if the state approves a license at a future date. Zoning for the Lee Health Coconut Point Development of Regional Impact (DRI) allows an additional 80,000 square feet to be built in the future, as well as another 20,000 square feet on a smaller, adjacent parcel, Bradach said.

“It is important the community support Lee Health Coconut Point, as utilization of the current planned services would be a factor in any decision to expand future services,” she noted. Regarding future plans for the remaining Lee Health acreage, Bradach added: “Although we do not have specific plans, we can say the focus will remain the same as it was for Lee Health Coconut Point: keeping people healthy and active. We will solicit comments and suggestions from the community on the services they would like us to consider in the plans.”

The southern section of the Village Center also includes American House Coconut Point, a senior living facility which opened in September 2016. It has 194 units of varying types including independent living, assisted living and memory care. American House is within walking distance of Lee Health Coconut Point.

Future Services at Lee Health Coconut Point

At the new facility, the emergency room will be open 365 days a year and treat acute illnesses and injuries including stroke, chest pain, orthopedic injuries, respiratory illnesses, lacerations, head injuries and abdominal pain. The facility also will include an observation unit with length of stay for up to 14 hours and a 25,000-square-foot surgery center with four operating rooms. Lee County EMS will be located onsite 24/7.

Medical offices will include primary care, pediatrics, OB/GYN, general and vascular surgery, orthopedics, cardiology and pulmonary/endocrinology/rheumatology. Other services include a radiology suite, breast health center, cardiovascular suite,  a laboratory, retail pharmacy and outpatient rehabilitation.

The vision is to redefine what healthcare delivery looks like for this community.

Additionally, Lee Health Coconut Point will be home to the Healthy Life Center, which offers many monthly classes, screenings and wellness programs. The Healthy Life Center will relocate from Coconut Point Mall into an expanded space with a retail store and a teaching kitchen for healthy cooking demos. Outside, the walkable campus will offer bike trails, a lake and grassy areas for outdoor fitness and rehabilitation.

“The vision is to redefine what healthcare delivery looks like for this community,” said Alex Greenwood, vice president of Lee Health Coconut Point.

Lee Health is developing a partnership with Arthrex, a Naples-based medical device manufacturer, to help design the Coconut Point orthopedic surgery facility, which will implement the Arthrex Synergy Imaging Platform, Greenwood said. The facility is anticipated to become a destination for joint replacement services.

All service providers at the Coconut Point facility will be connected to Lee Health’s electronic medical records information system, creating a “one-stop shop” experience for patients, Greenwood added. Additionally, “telemedicine” initiatives will allow physicians to conduct some patient visits via the internet.

The Coconut Point facility also will serve as hub of the Healthy Lee Initiative, which surveys the health status of Lee County communities to assess programming needs. Volunteers are currently being sought for the Lee Health Coconut Point Guest Advisory Council. This would be a core group of volunteers who would provide feedback on their experiences and expectations, Greenwood said. If interested, contact him at alex.greenwood@leehealth.org.

Village Center North: Civic & Cultural Center

During the pre-recession building boom, developers were proposing mixed use projects which included both a repertory theatre and a community theatre. The area south of Corkscrew Road along Via Coconut Point also has been pitched as the ideal location for a future Village Hall. Additionally, the main entrance to Estero Community Park was designed to be on Via Coconut, but this is yet to come to fruition. The vision remains, but interest from developers has been slow.

The first development to go through Estero’s planning process and to be constructed within the Village Center is Genova, a 205-unit condominium community at the southeast corner of Corkscrew Road and Via Coconut Point. The first of six buildings is expected to be completed by early March. A second building and the clubhouse are scheduled to open in July 2018. This community will have connectivity to Estero Community Park, and Genova has contributed $100,000 to build the future main park entrance. Lee County recently purchased 10 additional acres at the park with stated intent to build multipurpose recreational fields. Additionally, the Village will be conducting a Parks and Open Space Master Plan later in 2018 which will evaluate needs and identify potential land purchases for recreation and conservation.

A future recreational trail could be built along the CSX railroad tracks currently leased to Seminole Gulf Railway. Support from the ECCL via an email campaign was instrumental in getting the proposed Bonita-Estero Trail back into the Florida State Green Ways and Trails plan for its SunTrail System, a statewide network of paved, non-motorized trails. This future trail would run from Estero Parkway to the Bonita Springs southern border.

The largest undeveloped property within the Village Center boundaries is Estero North Point with about 100 acres east of U.S. 41 and north of Williams Road. Its current zoning (approved by Lee County) includes 150 multifamily housing units, 550,000 square feet of retail space, 120,000 square feet of office space and a 150-unit hotel. However, there is currently no action on this property. Several smaller, privately held parcels along Via Coconut Point also may be developed as part of the Village Center.

North of Corkscrew Road, Volunteers of America is planning to build a 340-unit continuing care retirement community on 21 acres east of Sandy Lane. Phase One, targeted for completion by 2019, will include 139 independent living apartments, 50 assisted living units, 64 skilled nursing suites and 32 memory care units. The development also is zoned for a freestanding medical office.

Get Involved with the EEEOC

The next EEEOC meeting is planned for January 29 at 1 p.m. at Estero Community Park. Those interested may join the EEEOC email list at https://esterotoday.com/ecodevsurvey/ or visit the EEEOC web page at https://esterotoday.com/estero-economic-excellence-outreach-council/.

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