In the Know: College Parkway Farmland to Become Apartments in Fort Myers

The forever vacant, 13.4 acres of farmland, known for its grazing goats at the northeast corner of College Parkway and South Pointe Boulevard in south Fort Myers, will be transformed next year into a 200-unit apartment complex.

Inspiration at South Pointe will have a full array of amenities, including a pool, clubhouse, fitness center, playgrounds and dog park. The complex also will have commercial sub-parcels at the southwest portion of the property, adjacent to the CVS, for restaurants and retail.

This is all pending the outcome of a Thursday comprehensive plan amendment and later a rezoning hearing with Lee County commissioners, one that is likely to end with converting the land from agricultural to mixed multi-use

Zimmer Development, a Wilmington, Delaware-based, family-owned company, first dipped its toes into the Lee County multi-family housing market with Oasis at Surfside in Cape Coral, at 2330 SW 23rd Place. That complex is now accepting leases and can be seen at Zimmer purchased that property for about $6.3 million in April 2019.

The new complex in Fort Myers will resemble the one in Cape Coral, said development manager Lowell Zimmer.

“I think we’d be shooting ourselves in the foot if we didn’t do retail in that area,” Zimmer said of College Parkway, just east of the Cape Coral Bridge and McGregor Boulevard. “Our study has 200 units. We haven’t decided yet, but if we decide to do a phase two, we have room for another 96-unit building. We’re going to bring a Class A product.

“Land in that corridor is so hard to come across. It took us two, three years to get this property under contract.”

The coronavirus pandemic has not slowed down Zimmer’s pace of development, Zimmer said.

“The only thing it did was scare us,” he said. “In terms of construction and occupancy, nothing has changed for us. People always need a place to live, even during a pandemic.”

Zimmer enlisted Fort Myers real estate broker Alex Henderson, now with Fischler Property Company, to scout and purchase the land, which is under contract contingent on getting county approval.

Neither side would divulge the land price.

Matt Simmons, a Fort Myers property appraiser with Maxwell, Hendry & Simmons, said these types of transactions usually are negotiated on a price per unit basis.

“It’s so rare to have a parcel this large for infill in an area so heavily developed in an Intensive Development land use category,” Simmons said. “This stretch of College Parkway has a daily traffic count of roughly 55,000 trips and it’s just really uncommon for a site like this to be available.“We want new development to take place in developed areas where there’s already infrastructure and utilities. As we continue to grow as a community, we’re going to have to make use of opportunities for density within our core, and those who are concerned with sprawl and environmental intrusion should be championing projects like this where growth is being allocated to already developed areas of the county.”

Zimmer said he was thrilled with the location.

“It’s got everything you want for an apartment complex,” Zimmer said. “You’ve got nearby retail. You’ve got a strong demographic. It’s a short ride to downtown. It’s very centralized. I would think from the day we break ground to the day people move in, it could be 14 months.”

Henderson figured the apartments would be completed in the first quarter of 2022 and that closing on the land would take place in early 2021.

“In early 2018 we submitted our first offer to buy this property,” Henderson said. “The owner was pushing this under the radar to a number of different buyers. We were obviously one of them and made it to the final round of offerings. In May of 2019, we came to an agreement.

“It’ll be three years by the time we close. This was a unique piece of property. I don’t think there’s a better site for a mixed-use commercial development project. Multi-family luxury apartments and commercial retail. It will be similar to what you see at Grand Central off 41.”

The Terry family, which declined to comment, has owned the Fort Myers farming property going all the way back to 1954, when the first sliver was purchased for $500. In the 1960, the Terrys bought an additional 10 acres for $10,000, said Fort Myers attorney Jenna Persons, who is representing the buyers.

“There was a farmer’s market there at one point,” said Persons, who did not anticipate any issues with getting the rezoning. “We have a favorable staff report. It’s been received in a positive manner so far.”