Brent Batten: Fateful day approaching for stretch of Collier Boulevard
Of course you can’t watch an area transform overnight.
It takes years for plans to be approved and buildings to be built.
But if you watch Tuesday’s meeting of the Collier County Commission, you may come close.
Three items packed in tight succession on the board’s agenda lay out the potential for a new future for the stretch of Collier Boulevard from Golden Gate Parkway to Interstate 75.
Two of the items involve major developments abutting the Paradise Coast Sports Complex the county is building east of Collier Boulevard at the City Gate commerce park.
The third is an update of plans for the Golden Gate Country Club property the county purchased in January. A vendor who agreed to build a golf course and entertainment venue at the site is now asking for money from the county to put toward the development, a request that bodes poorly for the project.
In a report to commissioners, county staff put the construction cost at about $70 million. When finished, it is expected to employ 190 warehouse staff and 30 office workers. Deputy County Manager Nick Casalanguida expects the jobs to pay above the average wages for the area.
Uline is a family-owned business that sells shipping and packaging materials.
Casalanguida said access to I-75 makes the site attractive to the company. The traffic it will generate will mostly be late at night into the early morning, avoiding the daily rush hours on Collier Boulevard. “It’s not a huge traffic impact. It’s a lot less than what could be there,” he said.
The company has agreed to pay to relocate City Gate Boulevard South at no cost to the county. It also has agreed to add parking for the sports complex, enlarge the recreation lake at the park and add a Tough Mudder-style obstacle course for public use.
In all, the improvements will cost about $6.6 million and the company will get about $1.4 million in tax benefits in return.
Casalanguida said the company is anxious to build in Collier County. “I gave them a list of things we were looking for. They didn’t balk. They’ve been very generous,” he said.
There are about 20 Great Wolf Resorts in the United States and Canada, the nearest being in Atlanta.
The one contemplated for Collier County would include a 550-room hotel and the massive indoor waterslide park that is the centerpiece of Great Wolf properties.
Construction would cost about $250 million, the county staff estimates, and the facility would employ about 375 people. It would generate more than $1 million a year in property tax, up to $5 million a year in sales tax and up to $3 million a year in room tax, according to the county staff report.
Casalanguida said the resort would complement the sports park, giving families an incentive to turn a three-day youth sports tournament into a weeklong vacation in Collier County.
He said the company will ask for various county incentives to build so the feasibility study will look at the costs and benefits the county might expect. The cost of the study, to be conducted by Hunden Strategic Partners, would be $40,000.
Finally, commissioners will get an update on the Golden Gate golf course property.
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Some elements of the plan, such as housing for “essential workers," first responders, nurses and other categories, is proceeding, the county staff reports.
Another use, a Veterans Administration nursing home, is pending. A state veterans affairs official earlier this year suggested the federal government may be shifting away from building nursing homes. But lobbyists working on the county’s behalf have been unable to verify that, staff reports.
“(Florida Department of Veteran Affairs) Deputy Executive Director, Major Gen. James Hartsell, recently reiterated their plan to visit the proposed Collier County site once they are cleared for travel due to restrictions put in place for the COVID-19 pandemic,” county staff wrote in the summary.
The golf course portion of the plan has changed.
“On Oct. 7, 2020, staff received a letter from ClubCorp requesting the County contribute $7 million towards the project. This request represents a significant change from the proposal previously accepted by the Board in that the original proposal from ClubCorp offered to redevelop the golf course and build the “BigShots” venue at no cost or additional investment by the County,” Geoff Willig, senior operations analyst with the county manager’s office, writes in an agenda item summary.
No county financial investment beyond the $29 million the county paid for the property was a key selling point for some of the commissioners when they approved the idea.
Commission Chairman Burt Saunders, who has favored the golf course proposal, said it was “not unreasonable” for the developer to ask for more money. It may have been unrealistic to expect a first-rate golf project to be built at no cost to the taxpayers, he said.
“It really becomes a question: ‘Does the county want to have a financial interest in a golf course?’” Saunders said.
Beyond Tuesday’s agenda, there’s other activity in the stretch of Collier Boulevard that portends a transformation.
Amazon is moving ahead with plans to convert the dormant Benderson Development building at Davis Boulevard and Collier into a distribution center, Casalanguida said.
Additional fields at the sports complex should be coming on line later this year, including the main event stadium where tournament finals will be held.
It should be ready for the Football University national middle school tournament scheduled for December.
“There are some very positive things that are happening. That sports facility is generating a lot of interest,” Saunders said.
(Connect with Brent Batten at email@example.com or via Facebook.)