Editor's Note: The Bonita Banner’s series by local civic leaders continues today with the vision for the future of the city by Mayor Jay Arend.
Little did I realize when I moved to Bonita Springs that I would be in a position to someday help implement the growth and design of a new city. When you begin to create a vision of what you want the city to be you need to look back at the many places you have lived or traveled to and recall what made them unique.
My vision for what the City of Bonita Springs will look like answers many of the concerns expressed by the citizen who replied to the two recent surveys. I will respond by explaining where we are now and what is needed as we move forward to achieve my vision.
The number one concern in both the Citizen Survey and the Chambers Survey were roads.
My vision is that Bonita Springs will have several north-south and east-west main roads but also more north-south and east-west internal connector roads. The main roads are either in the planning stage, the design stage or under construction. North-south main roads would be the six lanes of U.S. 41, four lanes on Old 41 Road from Rosemary North to U.S. 41, the four lane Imperial Parkway-Three Oaks connection, the six lanes or more on Interstate 75 and eventually the four or more lanes of County Road 951. That’s twenty-four or more north-south lanes compared to the ten we now have. The east-west roads do not fair as well yet but that’s where we need some vision.
The six lanes on Bonita Beach Road, the four lanes on East Terry, the recent improvements to Pennsylvania Street and a connector from Arroyal to U.S. 41 are the only roads in the design stage or under construction. My vision is that Dean Street will need some improvements. Matheson needs to be improved and extended on the south end to Bonita Beach Road and on the north end to Bonita Lane. Shangri-La needs to be improved and connect from Old 41 to the new Imperial Parkway/Three Oaks extension. A Sandy Lane connection needs to be considered as well as another connector from Old 41 to U.S. 41 south of Signal Road. Looking at it from a sub-regional aspect we need a connection between Old 41 and U.S. 41 south of Bonita Beach Road just inside the Collier County Line.
We need the connection of Coconut Road to I-75 and to the proposed 951 road.
Also high on the survey responses were the need for more parks or green space. I agree. The combination of four parks in old downtown Bonita will be a site to behold.
You will be able to walk from the Historical Park where the Liles Hotel is to the Band Shell Park, from there you will use a crossover by the railroad tracks to Depot Park. Then you will use a footbridge over the Imperial River to Island Park. This will be a beautiful combination of parks that will enhance the revitalization of the old downtown area.
In addition, the recent purchase of land immediately south of the Imperial River bridge on U.S. 41 will create a very passive area which will be called the Imperial River Preserve. Then we have the continuing upgrading of our Recreation Park on Pine Street.
On the west side of the city we have Lovers Key State Park and hopefully on the east side of the city we will be able to put together a park in the river area. We are building city owned soccer fields at the YMCA, as well as some on land owned by Florida Power and Light on Southern Pines Drive. We will have a park on the south end of Windsor Street on city land that was purchased to improve drainage in that area. However, in my vision we need many more small neighborhood parks.
Parks that do not necessarily have to have organized sports but a place where kids can hang out and create their own activities and families can have a place to gather and have picnics.
We have an opportunity here and now to create a park on the south end of property owned by the city at the north end of Matheson Street. This park would have Leitner Creek on the north end of it and a nature preserve on the west side of it. Add to that some basketball hoops, a volleyball area and some picnic tables and that is the kind of neighborhood parks I envision. I would hope that in the future the city would continue to pursue small land purchases that would allow more parks and green space. A major concern of business and many citizens is the need for Affordable Workforce Housing. I have a strong vision that everyone employed in Bonita Springs should have the opportunity to live in or around Bonita Springs. We have created over 75 new workforce homes since we became a city and have land available for over 100 more. It is my vision that upon completion of the evaluation of the DRGR land east of I-75 we will be able to create more workforce housing while addressing the best management of the land and its water resources. This is not only housing for the people now employed within our city , but also for another vision which I see and that is a need for a more diverse employment base.
More jobs created because of the addition of “clean” industry. We are very dependent on service jobs and not enough on industry jobs. To help in that area we need to think of another Business/Industry Park similar to Bernwood. This again may need some sub-regional effort as land is short in Bonita for this type of project. If we are unable to annex land we may need to work with other jurisdictions to the north or south of us.
Lastly of my top five visions I would see the revitalization of the Old Downtown area as a booming success of mixed use business and residential units on both sides of the river.
Some where in the downtown area a government campus housing a new City Hall, Library, Bonita District Sheriffs Station, Lee County Tax Collectors Office, Lee County Elections Office, a Planning and Permitting Office and any other county or state offices that would make it more convenient for our citizens.
I see the redevelopment from Rosemary Drive all the way to Bonita Beach Road. I also see homes within that area to the east and west of Old 41 being remodeled or replaced.
I believe that when the above mention roads are all in place that traffic will be much calmer on Old 41 and walking to the many shops from nearby neighborhoods and parking lots will be easy. It will be a very enjoyable area to go to. That is how I envision Bonita Spring in the future. By now you are saying do I have visions or d reams. Well I have both, and both can become a reality if we work hard for them.
Are you up to it?