Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Development helps push more residential space

A likely revision to development plans on a 100-acre site north of Coconut Point in Estero reveals a subtle shift in real estate market trends in that area. The site on U.S. 41 known as North Point might get rezoned in order to build more residential and less commercial space, a vast contrast from areas such as Cape Coral and Lehigh Acres, where commercial land is scarce and commercial development is lagging behind residential growth.

The North Point land was sold in February to two new owners — a joint venture between the Lutgert Companies and the Barron Collier Companies — who are in the process of planning their new mixed-use project to reflect the changing demands of the Estero real estate market.

The site is approved as a development of regional impact, located on the east side of US 41 between Williams Road and the Corkscrew Village Shopping Center. With the new regional mall just down the road and millions of square feet of commercial space under development, this hotspot carries a lot of potential.

The original plan by Illinois-based Oakbrook Properties was to build a whopping 550,000 square feet of retail space, along with 120,000 square feet of office space, a 150-unit hotel and 150 residential units. The new owners plan to apply for rezoning in order to reduce the commercial component for more housing.

Though plans have not been finalized, the retail component might be significantly reduced in favor of more housing units, and the office component might be slightly reduced as well.

"We are not far from putting our visions to the county once we have concluded our plan," said Dougall McCorkle, vice president of commercial development for Lutgert Companies. "We are still doing a traffic analysis."

Reducing the retail component of the project is expected to generate less traffic, which should provide some relief for travelers on U.S. 41 and adjoining roadways. McCorkle said there would still be the possibility of hotel rooms on the site.

Among other projects, Lutgert and Barron Collier have also partnered on another mixed-use development, The Mercato, located on a 53-acre site that fronts and connects U.S. 41 and Vanderbilt Beach Road in North Naples.

There is little vacant retail space in Estero — or in most of the county for that matter — but as more is constructed or being planned, a point may have been reached where the market demand needs to catch up.

That is where more residential development comes in to balance the mix. This is not unlike how Oakbrook modified its plans for the North and South Villages in the Coconut Point DRI to match the shifting pattern in the Estero real estate market over the past couple of years.

"I think there are two principal things driving the residential market in Estero," said Don Eslick, chairman of the Estero Council of Community Leaders. "The first is that the price of housing went up faster than the cost of housing.

"The second is that the area is zoned for so much more commercial development than it needs to be, so now you are seeing more mixed-use instead."

Eslick is optimistic that a fully integrated and balanced community will further enhance Estero's property values. Apparently developers like Lutgert and Barron Collier agree.

Source: The News Press

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