In the Know: Hope Preserve development shifts in scope, construction set to begin

David Dorsey
Fort Myers News-Press

A decade to develop Hope Preserve seemed about right, but the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic added an extra year to the 10-year mark for seeing the first signs of construction on the 46-acre south Fort Myers parcel.

Hope Hospice bought the land stretching from Metro Parkway to Plantation Road along Six Mile Cypress Parkway for $7.5 million in 2010. It did so with long-term visions of developing a new headquarters there, subsidizing it by selling outparcels of land around it.

Previously: Hope Preserve potential landing spot for Trader Joe's, much more

Hope Preserve, the land has been cleared and waiting to be developed for a couple of years. This year, things will start to happen. Stevens Construction is preparing to build its new headquarters, and Orthopedic Specialists of Southwest Florida are planning to develop there as well. Those businesses will flank the planned Hope Hospice headquarters and a new hotel that's in the planning stages.

From then to now the value of the land has grown, and Hope Hospice’s visions have drawn closer.

Last week, Justin Thibaut, Christi Pritchett and the rest of their team at LSI Companies brokered two parcels totaling 10.77 acres of Hope Hospice’s land for a combined $6.9 million.

Mark Stevens’s company bought 3.71 acres for $2.1 million to build a new corporate headquarters. Stevens looked no farther than the mirror to find a construction contractor.

Stevens Construction will build its new, 21,727-square-foot headquarters and commemorate the groundbreaking May 19 off Metro Parkway. Slated completion date: Feb. 1. Its offices will be on the second floor, and brokers are working to find a first-floor tenant.

Stevens also will build an adjacent, 27,896-square-foot building for a medical company to be located on that same, 3.71-acre parcel on the first floor with a second tenant on the second floor.

“We finally got all of our permits after a five-month process,” Stevens said. “We closed on a bank loan (Tuesday). The building with land is going to be about a $4.5 million investment. Initially, we’ll have about 20 people in there with the capacity to grow to a little over 30.

“This is really for our company leadership. Our accounting functions. We have a really good preconstruction services department. This is the corporate headquarters for our four offices.”

Stevens Construction, which last year finished the FineMark National Bank & Trust building off College Parkway, also has offices in Orlando, Sarasota and Tampa. It will continue to own its current headquarters at 6208 Whiskey Creek Drive, leasing the to-be vacated space to Marquis Wealth Management Group.

Hope Preserve, the land has been cleared and waiting to be developed for a couple of years. This year, things will start to happen. Stevens Construction is preparing to build its new headquarters, and Orthopedic Specialists of Southwest Florida are planning to develop there as well. Those businesses will flank the planned Hope Hospice headquarters and a new hotel that's in the planning stages.

Orthopedic specialists to build

Orthopedic Specialists of Southwest Florida, which has been located since 2000 at 2531 Cleveland Ave., in Fort Myers, across the street from Lions Park, purchased a 7.06-acre Hope Preserve parcel for $4.87 million. The land is at the hard corner of Plantation and Six Mile.

“According to Lee Health, they are trying to centralize Gulf Coast Medical Center,” said Dr. Fletcher Reynolds, who operates on shoulders, knees and hips. “They’re planning for that to be the main hub. Being the biggest group in the area, we wanted to be near the main hub.”

Reynolds has always dabbled in real estate as a side job/hobby. When not operating, he has run Reynolds Real Estate of Florida. His company used to focus on residential real estate but has shifted to medical office space.

“I happened to be the one with the most real estate experience,” Reynolds said of the 13 doctors on staff. “I’m helping to spearhead the development.

More of our In the Know coverage:

The new surgeon’s headquarters likely will have two buildings. 

Groundbreaking should begin in February-March of next year. Following a 15- to 16-month construction timetable, it should open in 2023.

Reynolds said his group has clearance to build up to 80,000 square feet. It will start with a 60,000-square-foot office and a 15,000-square-foot surgery center. The remaining 5,000 square feet could be an urgent care or other medical-related office.

“October of 2023,” Reynolds said.  "That’s our goal, to be out of there and be in our new office by then.”

Orthopedic Specialists has been leasing back its current space since selling it about a decade ago, Reynolds said. Rose Hill Fort Myers LLC, a New York-based company, bought the 40,000-square foot building in 2015 for $14.8 million. Prior to being a surgeon’s office, it had been a gym and a tae kwon do studio.

Hope Preserve shifts in scope

This a rendering for whatÕs going to be built at Hope Preserve.

Thibaut of LSI Companies, which has been involved with Hope Preserve’s development from the beginning, said COVID-19 prompted a shift in scope for the users.

“I think Hope transitioned into something we didn’t expect it to,” Thibaut said. “Hope was expected to primarily be retail with the outparcels. Covid made a shift. They’ve been snatched up by medical users on hard corners. We’re seeing a lot of medical office interest in what previously would have been retail.

“I’m still a believer that retail is rebounding and coming back. Some savvy medical groups took advantage of that and jumped in on that.”

The hard, northwest corner of Six Mile Cypress and Plantation Road are under contract and approved for a 124-room hotel and a quick-serve restaurant, but those deals have yet to close, and the involved brands are not yet disclosed.

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Construction costs surge

Hindsight being 20/20, Stevens of Stevens Construction said he probably could have saved at least 20% in costs had he not pumped the brakes last year on his new headquarters because of the uncertain COVID-19 economy.

“In three years, we’ve outgrown our space,” Stevens said. “We need more space, more breathing room for our offices. We decided not to try and forecast the future too much.”

But the future looks bright. Stevens has 39 projects under construction totaling $94 million in value.

There are 31 projects in preconstruction totaling $152 million.

Stevens has 58 employees and expects to have 70 by the end of this year.

COVID-19 has disrupted raw materials, creating shortages and limiting production and transporation.

Drywall, joint compound, steel studs, acoustical grids and insulation may not be on the minds of most of us, but most of us aren’t in the construction industry.

The freeze in Texas also continues to be a factor in supply pricing, as manufacturing plants are undergoing upgrades.

Hope Preserve, the land has been cleared and waiting to be developed for a couple of years. This year, things will start to happen. Stevens Construction is preparing to build its new headquarters, and Orthopedic Specialists of Southwest Florida are planning to develop there as well. Those businesses will flank the planned Hope Hospice headquarters and a new hotel that's in the planning stages.

Lumber and steel continue to skyrocket the most in pricing. Some types have doubled in price from a year ago.

“Monthly increases on all products have been common,” according to information Stevens sent in an email. “We have been receiving price increase letters every month with 5% increases on almost every construction product.”

That perfect storm of rising construction prices, near record-low interest rates and rising land prices has sent companies with plans to build, including Stevens’ own company, hustling to do just that.

Stevens said he’s glad the day has arrived to build something for his own employees.

“It’s become more central to where we work,” Stevens said. “It gets us closer to the interstate. I really like the concept of how Hope is developing it. The types of tenants they are courting.  I love the location. I think it’s really going to put us in a better position for growth. It’s a great hub area. Lee Health expanding their hospital, there’s a lot more development coming that way.”

Connect with this reporter: David Dorsey (Facebook), @DavidADorsey (Twitter).