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Frank D'alessandro: Market Watch
N. Fort Myers poised for growth
Originally posted on March 05, 2006

A subtle transformation is happening north of the Caloosahatchee River. Increasing real estate sleepy, mostly rural area into a hotbed of activity. Over the past year, high-end residential development has been growing, and more commercial property transactions have taken place.

Whether North Fort Myers citizens interpret that as a good or a bad thing depends on their point of view. Those who favor the quiet of rural living may prefer to keep things just the way they are. Yet there are others who prefer to be close to shopping and employment, or are attracted by the lure of a dynamic community with higher-end homes and amenities.

North Fort Myers is the largest unincorporated area in Lee County, stretching from the northern shore of the Caloosahatchee River to Charlotte County, with Cape Coral to the west and Alva to the east — an expanse of about 70 square miles. The area encompasses a diverse community, with quaint old-Florida-style homes, manufactured houses, riverfront condos and a rising number of upscale single-family homes in gated communities. North Fort Myers is also known for its large rural area, which offers larger home sites with side and rear yards — a rare commodity these days.

The area is home to some of the older but well-known Lee County landmarks as well, such as the Lee Civic Center, Caloosahatchee Regional Park and the Shell Factory, which is a popular tourist attraction brought back to life in recent years. East of the Lee Civic Center is the Lee County segment of Babcock Ranch, which is the largest and most publicized real estate transaction in all of south Florida.

Judging by patterns emerging from development plans and commercial real estate trends over the past year, we will see rejuvenated commercial activity around U.S. 41, Business 41, and Bayshore Road in North Fort Myers. More commercial development and renovation is predicted toward Cape Coral, along Pondella Road and the east end of Pine Island Road. This recent interest in commercial activity and redevelopment is being fueled by a growing population base with the need for more retail and services. It will not be long before a divide appears in the landscape between the busier western end of North Fort Myers near U.S. 41 and the more rural east side.

Which new developments will have the most significant impact on the growth of North Fort Myers? "I don't think any one of them will individually. All of them in conjunction will bring unprecedented change," said Mary Havener, executive director for the North Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce. "We have diverse business and residential growth, increased options for shopping and dining, and an increasing number of professional offices. We also have easy access to surrounding communities.

"There is still minimal traffic congestion, but with growth will come change ... more options, more alternatives in North Fort Myers than ever."

Havener believes North Fort Myers is well positioned for growth. "Many citizens want to keep the community's former rural identity, but change is evident."

Havener said that a Community Development Planning Panel is forming to oversee the growth. The next meeting will be held March 20 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the community room at the Shell Factory on U.S. 41. Anticipated attendees include Commissioner Tammy Hall and county planner Jim Mudd.

Next week we will take a look at the specific North Fort Myers developments under way and being planned.

— Frank D'Alessandro is a real estate broker with D'Alessandro & Woodyard Inc. - Commercial Realtors.Readers may contact him via e-mail at fdalessandro@dw-cr.com or by calling (239) 425-6000.

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