Bonita Springs — Bonita Springs is about a dozen years old, a relatively young city in the big scheme of things. Like most new cities, it attempts to define itself for its citizens and its future.
Bonita Springs has had growing pains as its ambiance development has been rather fluid. Some concrete plans are in the works, with a major Old 41 Redevelopment and Economic Development Workshop set for July 24 at 9 a.m. at City Hall to look at the Old 41 corridor regarding architectural standards, economic development, incentives, marketing and more.
John Dulmer, Director of Community Development for the City of Bonita Springs pointed out, “the vision for Bonita Springs has gone from a sleepy little fishing village that grew tomatoes, to an amazing retirement community with a future that includes a thriving economic area with new, clean industries and businesses that increase employment opportunities for its citizens.”
The recent economic downturn points out the wisdom of a diversified community in addition to an ambiance that attracts retirement and tourism. Bio-medical companies in Bonita Springs are examples of economic development that contribute to the new future.
Currently, commercial buildings are governed by a set of architectural standards that require an application to the City for review by the City Architect, Sam Vincent.
The standards provide for general safety, adherence to codes, and overall consistency, without a specific theme or architectural direction.
Formerly blighted areas of Bonita Springs have blossomed under targeted renovations that led to Riverside Park, the Cottages and recreational river activity on the Old 41 Corridor. Old 41 commercial developments from the north have maintained a similar architectural theme by design and provide an attractive entry to the City.
Bonita Springs has 20 specific historical buildings that fall within the purview of the city’s Historical Preservation Board. It uses guidelines established by the Federal Department of the Interior which are required to receive tax incentives for restoration. The intent of the guidelines is to assist the long-term preservation of a property’s historic materials and features and encompasses the exterior and interior of the buildings.
Recently, the former Dixie Moon Café submitted an application to repaint the exterior of the new Hot Caboose Island Grille restaurant; an earth tone color chip was approved by the Historical Preservation Board.
According to John Gucciardo, Assistant City Manager and liaison to the Historical Preservation Board, any request that meets the guidelines receives quick approval.
“Eight of the designated historical buildings will be part of a planned self-guided walking tour and will be highlighted in a video,” said Gucciardo.
“Some older cities have a historical consistency that lends direction to a particular façade choice or architectural direction. Bonita Springs has a few historical buildings left, but the majority of the buildings have had multiple architectural influences,” said Dulmer. “Attempts for a theme in the past included the designation of Community Redevelopment Areas with specific guidelines and standards. CRA’s helped improve blighted areas in downtown Bonita and might be a future consideration for funding,” he said.
Minimum standards are in place to protect the ambiance of Bonita Springs; that ambiance needs further definition. The workshop scheduled for July 24 may help set that direction.