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Hurricane Ian levels plans for Cape Coral Yacht Club

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Feb 1, 2023
Cape Coral Yacht Club


Plans for a $60 million dollar renovation of the Cape Coral Yacht Club appear to be another Hurricane Ian loss with the city now looking at a total rebuild.

Cape Coral City Council got a look Thursday at options for a completely re-imagined Yacht Club that would make the city-owned complex less like a park and more like a destination complete with a beach, retail and commercial opportunities and the feel of a resort.

Its buildings are a total loss and cannot be repaired or rebuilt as previously constructed due to federal regulations for flood-zone structures.

The main ballroom building at the historic riverfront park was appraised at The $680,000; it needs $520,000 in repair. The second building, the Tony Rotino Center, was appraised at $467,000; it needs $350,000 in repairs.

Both buildings at the Driftwood Parkway park fall under FEMA’s 50 percent rule, which means the city can only repair a structure up to 50 percent of its value if it is in a flood zone. Both buildings went well over the limit and, since the city can’t raise the buildings to make them flood compliant, they will have to come down, council was told Thursday.

James Pankonin of Kimley-Horn, which are the designers of the project, said the vision of the Yacht Club was a “return to its roots as Cape Coral’s premier waterfront venue and that a resort-style atmosphere should be created that plays to its strengths, like its views of the Caloosahatchee, historic ballroom and fountain, a resort-style swimming pool, waterfront restaurant, marina and beach.

Amenities that don’t require a waterfront location, such as the tennis courts — a point of contention during the original renovation talks — could be relocated to other sites.

Council pretty much now has a blank canvas with which to work, and Pankonin gave the elected board five rough concepts. These included an improved marina and boating access, new and maybe multiple piers; better and expanded waterfront access; as many as three restaurants; the possibility for commercial or retail, much more parking and a range of amenities that capitalize on riverfront location.

As for a pool, many on council liked the idea of a resort-style design and rejected the possibility of the Olympic-sized pool, something the city has said it would like to see for nearly a year but not at this location where a resort pool would be more appropriate.

Councilmember Bill Steinke said he wanted demolition work to start.

“We are not fixing these buildings, so let’s remove them. To look at empty land is better than watching destruction and I don’t want them to be a hazard,” said Steinke, who added he would like to see the project done in phases, which is now possible since the entire park is being redone instead of its edges.

Also, work can start immediately once the permits come in, now that the city can start on seawalls and that they are not keeping the buildings.

As for cost and a timeline, that is unknown. Originally, the timeline was 24 months, but if restaurants are added on a pier and if things go more vertical, it could be longer.

Mayor John Gunter said he was happy the outer footprint hasn’t changed much, except for the pier the city lost due to the storm for which they will have to get a permit.

But Gunter added he hopes insurance will pay for the damage done to the buildings.

“When you see the damage Ian did, and we have to adhere to the 50 percent rule like everybody else, those buildings will be replaced,” Gunter said. “We will get some insurance reimbursement for those buildings. It probably won’t pay for a new building, but it will mitigate the costs and with the blank slate we can move the components of the project.”

Hurricane Ian, a near Category 5 storm with winds of up to 155 mph, made landfall on Caya Costa on Sept. 28. Its storm surge inundated Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, Captiva and communities all along the Caloosahatchee and Gulf-access waterfront including Matlacha and Cape Coral’s Gold Coast where homes near the Yacht Club complex — the city’s oldest and most iconic public complex — took up to 6 feet of water.

Receding waters left the area littered with boats of all sizes and homes with inches of muck and soaked possessions and drywall.