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Numbers & projects: Economic development indicators remain strong

By CJ HADDAD - | May 24, 2024

Cape Coral Grove PROVIDED

Cape Coral’s experts in economic development delivered an update to City Council this past Wednesday as it pertains to key economic indicators, industry updates, business retention, marketing, and strategic plan and activity updates.

Economic Business Director Sharon Woodberry started her presentation by sharing Cape Coral unemployment rates, which sit at 3.4%, which is right on par with Lee County as a whole, and up .4% from March of 2023.

When it comes to vacancy rates in the city, retail and office space were at 1.9%, with industrial at 2.2%, and multi-family at 13%. These rates are lower than other cities in Southwest Florida and throughout the state, other than Naples in most categories.

Rents in the city are averaging $25 per square foot, which Woodberry said is an uptick from years past.

“In the past three years, though, there has been an increase of that number of 15-and-a-half percent compared to 16% in the wider Fort Myers market,” she said.

The city has just under 10 million square feet of retail space, with roughly 87,000 square feet under construction.

When it comes to industrial space, the current 2.2% vacancy rate has increased 1.2% over the last year compared to 5% in the broader Fort Myers market. Rents are sitting around $13.60 per square foot, which is a 7% uptick from a year ago and a 30.6% increase over three years. About 110,000 square feet is under construction, representing a 2.9% expansion of inventory.

Commercial projects currently in permitting/under construction include:

• Terrace Village Market: Located at 1482 Southwest 6th Terrace, will offer retail and tiki lounger. Groundbreaking is to be determined.

• Island Pearl: Located at 723 Southwest 32nd Place, will offer a restaurant, retail, and office space. Groundbreaking to be determined.

• Lucky’s 13 Restaurant: Located at 3902 Del Prado Blvd. S, is a family friendly, rustic-style pub. Will be adding a 3,500-foot addition that will include indoor and outdoor seating, a second bar, bone ball courts, and a stage for live performances. Pub will have seating for up to 300 guests. Expected completion is in fall of 2024.

• Slip Away Food Truck Park: Located at 1811 Cape Coral Parkway E., will offer food trucks and marina shop with boat slips. Expected completion is spring of 2025.

• Tiki Tails Dog Resort: Located at 4420 Southeast 16th Place, is constructing a new building to accommodate the growth of the business that includes pet boarding and grooming. Broke ground in late February and is expected to be completed in early 2025.

Grants & incentives

When it comes to incentive projects to date in 2024, three building infrastructure grants have been approved by the city manager totaling $303,076 in grant awards, and $6,719,014 in project investments. Two additional projects are under review totaling $174,411 in grants, with a project investment of $10,716,134.

Enhanced value recapture grants have two applications in review with $79,626,105 in grant awards. Cape Collaborates has one application in review with $50,000 in grant award, with three others in progress. The CRA has two applications approved with $68,000 in grant award, with one other in review and six in progress.


An update was given on the $920 million project in Cape Coral Grove. It will feature 70 buildings, 350,000 square feet of commercial retail and dining space, 125 hotel rooms, and 125,000 square feet of leasable office space.

“(It’s) another one of our projects that we have slated for our project priority,” Woodberry said. “And in helping to keep those projects moving forward and facilitate permitting and assistance as needed. Updates are that they provided us with progress drawings. They’re receiving feedback from different staff on the percentages as they move forward with those drawings.”

In Quarter 2 of 2024, the infrastructure will begin, with multi-family starting in Q3, and the town center starting in Q2 of 2025.

Updates also came in on 7 Islands – Gulf Gateway Resort. Architects are under contract for all island structures. The Army Corps of Engineer application was submitted in January, and a project manager assigned. The city anticipates 18 to 24 months for the application review period. Woodberry said a traffic impact study is being procured, and that the Southwest Florida Water Management District application is in progress with the anticipation for a June of 2025 issuance.

When it comes to Bimini Square, a $55 million investment, Woodberry said there are building permits in review for the medical and outpatient space. The project includes a waterfront restaurant, nearly 50,000 square feet of retail and professional space, 218 premium apartments, a 25-slip boat dock, 500-space parking garage, and more.

“They’re 16 percent complete with construction of the mixed-use, multi-family structure,” Woodberry said.

The city continues to have monthly meetings via its business and industry roundtable discussions with various entities and realms of business in the city.

“We’ve gotten great responses from restaurants and different businesses, as well as industrial,” Woodberry said. “Great participation every month. We’re getting good feedback and trying to identify some takeaways for things that we can execute as far as input from our businesses.”

Regarding the city’s Economic Development Strategic Plan goes, the EDO is examining tourism opportunities, looking at infrastructure and land use analysis, and conducting employer surveys. The lead consultant on the plan is DCG Corplan Consulting. The project completion is expected in August of 2024 for the plan.