BOOM­ING BONITA

SURGE OF REN­TALS WHERE CON­DOS USED TO BE KING

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - CONTENTS - BY JEFF LYTLE

A build­ing surge of rental apart­ments is un­der­way in Bonita, cast­ing a new light on the town’s life­style. Spank­ing brand­new and with a list of lux­ury-cen­tric ameni­ties, the de­vel­op­ments can be quite tempt­ing, leav­ing prospec­tive home shop­pers won­der­ing whether to buy or rent.

As the last of the ugly, de­press­ing piles of Hur­ri­cane Irma de­bris were lifted from the Bonita Springs and Es­tero land­scape, the light of some­thing new re­placed the dark­ness: De­vel­op­ment that was put on hold since Septem­ber is com­ing out of the ground at a re­mark­able pace.

In Bonita alone, there is a new RaceTrac ser­vice cen­ter built and a den­tal of­fice, ho­tel and stand-alone car wash planned on Bonita Beach Road, and an af­ford­able sin­gle-fam­ily home project is ris­ing on Terry Street. A Flor­ida Power & Light Co. sub­sta­tion and Cause­way Com­merce Park are com­ing to Old 41 Road north and south, re­spec­tively, and a self-stor­age project is tak­ing shape west of Bonita Grande. A de­vel­oper is test­ing the wa­ters for a com­mer­cial/res­i­den­tial project at Old 41 and Terry.

But the even big­ger head­line is about large apart­ment projects. A shortage of com­plexes of qual­ity ren­tals in Bonita is be­ing filled by three de­vel­op­ments, all city-ap­proved and ar­riv­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously. Mo­saic at Oak Creek will have 273 units fronting Old 41 Road and Dean Street, across the street from Bonita El­e­men­tary School. Hid­den Lakes will have 240 units south of Springs Plaza and east of U.S. High­way 41. The aptly named Bonita Ex­change, at the south­west cor­ner of Bonita Beach Road and In­ter­state 75, will have 264 units.

“Flor­ida (pro-busi­ness, low taxes, pro-growth) is re­ceiv­ing ap­prox­i­mately 1,100 new folks each day. Many of them are mov­ing to our area and the I-4 and I-95 cor­ri­dors. Also, wages went nowhere in the last decade, so af­ford­abil­ity to pur­chase is still dif­fi­cult, es­pe­cially for younger work­ing fam­i­lies. Def­i­nitely a mar­ket for apart­ments.’’

—Todd E. Gates, chair­man of Bonita-based GATES Con­struc­tion

The trio will make Bonita a fac­tor in the re­gion’s rental mar­ket, which is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a surge to the south in Col­lier County as well as to the north in Es­tero, where Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Di­rec­tor Mary Gibbs re­ports sev­eral projects com­pleted or un­der way. Lon­gi­tude 81 on Ben Hill Grif­fin Park­way, across from Gran­dezza, was ap­proved for 203 apart­ment units and has been com­pleted, she says. Gibbs notes Phase 1 w ent up a f ew years ago next door with 260 units. Mean­while, The Reef stu­dent hous­ing sec­ond phase of 60 units is fin­ish­ing con­struc­tion at Es­tero and Three Oaks park­ways.

“Co­conut Point was re­cently ap­proved by the Es­tero Town Coun­cil for a zon­ing amend­ment to add 180 apart­ment units at the south­east cor­ner of Wil­liams Road and Via Co­conut Point by the round­about,’’ Gibbs adds. “They have not started con­struc­tion yet.’’

She says Stock De­vel­op­ment is propos­ing about 350 apart­ment units on the south side of Corkscrew Road, just east of the Lowe’s plaza and west of Corkscrew Wood­lands. The Res­i­dences at Uni­ver­sity Vil­lage, by Miro­mar De­vel­op­ment Corp. just be­yond the Es­tero Vil­lage bound­ary, will be home to nearly 600 ten­ants start­ing in the fall.

Yet, for now, the at­ten­tion is on the three apart­ment com­plexes com­ing to an area that once had so few. And Mo­saic at Oak Creek has the po­ten­tial of jump­start­ing and set­ting a tone for all of Bonita’s down­town re­de­vel­op­ment, which has lan­guished since a ma­jor condo mixed-use project, Im­pe­rial Land­ing, was can­celed on the eve of the re­ces­sion.

MO­SAIC AT OAK CREEK

Mo­saic De­vel­op­ment, with of­fices in Fort My­ers and St. Peters­burg, is im­mersed in the rental in­dus­try in Lee County and Cen­tral Flor­ida. Mo­saic pro­poses a gated, Old Flori­dalook com­mu­nity of three-story build­ings. Part of the deal with the city of Bonita calls for Mo­saic to safe­guard Oak Creek and its creek­bank while also de­vel­op­ing pub­lic ac­cess via a ca­noe and kayak launch.

The project’s 12,000 square feet of com­mer­cial space will face Old 41, across from the iconic Shangri-La re­sort. Of spe­cial in­ter­est is a land­mark oc­cu­py­ing part of that site—the long-dor­mant Dixie Moon café/ diner. The plan is for it to have a “gen­tle yet per­ma­nent” move to down­town’s ac­tiv­ity cen­ter at River­side Park. The ini­tial pro­posal is for the Dixie Moon to get pub­lic re­strooms (funded by Mo­saic) and serve as a mu­seum and in­for­ma­tion cen­ter, city of­fi­cials say.

Marc Mar­i­ano of Mo­saic ex­plains that the project will tar­get renters of all ages look­ing for a “hands-free” life­style who see the “ben­e­fit of trad­ing the has­sle/cost of main­tain­ing a house for the con­ve­nience of rent­ing an apart­ment home in an amenity-rich com­mu­nity. It of­fers the ease of en­joy­ing out­door en­ter­tain­ment and recrea­tion, lo­cal cul­tural of­fer­ings and shop­ping and, if still in the work­place, ac­cess to em­ploy­ment, which is pre­cisely what we are de­liv­er­ing.

“Our monthly rents are still be­ing set,’’ Mar­i­ano adds, “but they are in line with the ex­ist­ing, older apart­ment stock in the Bonita Springs mar­ket, ex­cept ours will be a brand-new prod­uct.’’

Bonita Mayor Pe­ter Sim­mons

OUR MONTHLY RENTS ARE STILL BE­ING SET, BUT THEY ARE IN LINE WITH THE EX­IST­ING, OLDER APART­MENT STOCK IN THE BONITA SPRINGS MAR­KET, EX­CEPT OURS WILL BE A BRAND-NEW PROD­UCT.’’

—Marc Mar­i­ano, Mo­saic

says he likes the Mo­saic at Oak Creek project for its own and fu­ture im­pacts: “Yes in­deed, we are ex­cited about this project. We look for­ward to it and oth­ers as our down­town con­tin­ues to grow and be a place for our res­i­dents and vis­i­tors to en­joy.’’ Bonita De­vel­op­ment Di­rec­tor Jac­que­line Ger­son adds, “We hope that the Mo­saic prop­erty will serve as a cat­a­lyst for other mixed use and res­i­den­tial in­fill and re­de­vel­op­ment projects within the down­town area.’’

HID­DEN LAKES

The lo­ca­tion of Hid­den Lakes is just north of Ster­ling Oaks and the Col­lier County line, west of Span­ish Wells, east of U.S. 41 and south of Springs Plaza. “It will com­prise 240 apart­ment homes rang­ing in size from stu­dio units to three-bed­room units,” says Greg Martin, prin­ci­pal and vice pres­i­dent of de­vel­op­ment at In­di­anapo­lis-based Mil­haus. “The tar­get clien­tele will be young to mid­dle-30s pro­fes­sion­als, empty-nesters and ser­vice pro­fes­sion­als. The timetable is con­struc­tion to start in the spring of 2018 and com­ple­tion of the project by the end of 2019,’’ he notes.

Re­fer­ring to the three con­cur­rent apart­ment projects, Martin adds: “I think they all have unique lo­ca­tions within Bonita Springs and may of­fer char­ac­ter­is­tics that at­tract dif­fer­ent de­mo­graphic pro­files. Given there have been a lim­ited num­ber of new multi-fam­ily de­vel­op­ments be­ing com­pleted in Bonita, we feel there is de­mand to ab­sorb all of these units over the next few years.’’

BONITA EX­CHANGE

The project will of­fer 264 units and 20,000 square feet of com­mer­cial space on three out­parcels on 26 acres at a key trans­porta­tion node—the Bonita I-75 in­ter­change, be­tween the re­gion’s top two

THE TAR­GET CLIEN­TELE WILL BE YOUNG TO MID­DLE-30S PRO­FES­SION­ALS, EMPTY-NESTERS AND SER­VICE PRO­FES­SION­ALS. —Greg Martin, prin­ci­pal and vice pres­i­dent of de­vel­op­ment at In­di­anapo­lis-based Mil­haus

AF­TER THIS PAST HUR­RI­CANE, IT MIGHT BE BET­TER TO RENT SOME­ONE ELSE’S PROP­ERTY RATHER THAN HAVE YOUR OWN AT RISK.” —Mark Strain, long­time Col­lier County plan­ning and zon­ing of­fi­cial

metro ar­eas of Fort My­ers and Naples. Ad­di­tion­ally, Trey Massey of The Res­i­den­tial Group, based in At­lanta, is also de­vel­op­ing 200 rental units south of Naples.

And as the con­struc­tion of the large apart­ment projects com­mences, res­i­dents and vis­i­tors alike may find them­selves ask­ing, “Why here? Why now?” In re­sponse, re­gional de­vel­op­ment author­i­ties weigh in on the sud­den surge of ren­tals where con­dos used to be king.

Vet­eran real es­tate ap­praiser and Col­lier County mar­ket au­thor­ity Cindy Car­roll of­fers her the­ory: “As prop­erty val­ues in the Naples area in­crease, buy­ers will be look­ing else­where for ‘af­ford­able’ hous­ing. That would in­clude rental prop­er­ties and owner-oc­cu­pied res­i­dences. New homes in the $200,000s would be very at­trac­tive and Bonita/Es­tero is a rea­son­able al­ter­na­tive to Naples’ higher-priced prod­ucts.’’

“If we’re to cre­ate a ‘walk­a­ble down­town’ and have tran­sit that func­tions ef­fi­ciently and in a timely man­ner,” states for­mer Bonita Mayor Ben Nel­son, “we need a cer­tain amount of clus­tered den­sity. It can be a re­ally good thing and can ac­tu­ally keep us out of our cars.

“I think with the right man­age­ment and main­te­nance, it should be good for down­town and cre­ate some syn­ergy for more com­mer­cial there,” Nel­son con­tin­ues. “But the coun­cil must cre­ate some road con­nec­tiv­ity in the down­town area—Mathe­son to Bonita Beach Road, Good­win to Im­pe­rial Park­way, etc.—or Old 41/Bonita Beach Road and Terry Street will be in trou­ble.”

Mark Strain, a long­time Col­lier County plan­ning and zon­ing of­fi­cial, says, “Af­ter the re­ces­sion, mort­gages may be harder to qual­ify for. Rental may be the best op­tion un­til a credit rat­ing is es­tab­lished. And af­ter this past hur­ri­cane, it might be bet­ter to rent some­one else’s prop­erty rather than have your own at risk.

“Ren­tals do come with a lot of op­tions t o down­size and thus re­duce over­all ex­penses,” Strain adds. “With costs to­day, this may not be a bad op­tion for some.’’

“The tim­ing of the three apart­ment projects sig­nals that the de­mand for rental prop­erty, as well as owned units, is high in Bonita,” ex­plains Bonita City Man­ager Carl Sch­wing. “This is not lo­cal­ized only to Bonita, but seems to be a trend coun­ty­wide.”

Sum­ming up, the city man­ager states, “There are al­ways res­i­den­tial clients who need to rent in­stead of buy. The rea­sons vary by cus­tomer. The city is a very de­sir­able place—one that has small-town charm with a big, bright fu­ture! It is well lo­cated be­tween Fort My­ers and Naples and has quick ac cess to Old 41, down­town, I-75 and U.S. 41.’’

In­ter­nal court­yard pool area is to be a cen­ter­piece of Mo­saic at Oak Creek.

The Res­i­dence at Uni­ver­sity Vil­lage by Miro­mar De­vel­op­ment Corp. of­fers three-story, gar­den-style apart­ments fur­nished with state-ofthe-art ameni­ties, plus a swim­ming pool com­plex, nearby restau­rants and shops, and prox­im­ity to Flor­ida Gulf Coast...

Top draw­ing shows Bonita Ex­change’s pro­posed club­house. Be­low is a con­cept el­e­va­tion of one of its apart­ment build­ings.

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