Hovland Real Estate isn't waiting for municipal government's downtown plan
Bonita Springs has become the latest Florida city to hire a guru to bolster its economic development potential through good urban design.
As it has in Sarasota, Ft. Myers, Naples and elsewhere, Miami-based Duany Plater-Zyberk Inc. is encouraging the Lee County municipality to expand zoning to allow more mixed-use projects; heighten pedestrian experiences and increase its number of residents.
DPZ officials are currently holding a series of public charrettes to present ideas and receive public input on everything from traffic calming downtown to parking, a proposed “form-based code” to more attainable workforce housing and building heights to better signage.
“Ornament on buildings should be restrained, with priority given to good quality window, doors and shading devices,” DPZ Senior Project Manager Xavier Iglesias wrote to city officials outlining the firm’s proposed design improvements.
Bonita Springs officials, who hired DPZ last year, recently asked the noted urban planning firm to accelerate its process to complete a plan for the city, from 24 months to 10 months.
DPZ’s advice has, in places, had a dramatic effect. In Sarasota, the city’s once-sleepy downtown has over the past two decades evolved into a vibrant environment filled with full-time residents, restaurants and other nightlife, shops and entertainment — much of it the result of the firm’s master plan and related zoning code.
In Providence, Rhode Island, DPZ built upon an existing economic development plan and leveraged institutions like Brown University and culinary school Johnson & Wales University, along with a riverfront, to enliven the city at night and on weekends.
In time, the same could happen in Bonita Springs, a municipality of about 56,000 that is growing thanks in part to its proximity to Naples, eco-tourism and a series of civic improvements and purchases.
“Downtown Bonita Springs is in an exciting new period of its evolution,” the city wrote in introducing plans for a form-based zoning code, in which uses of buildings are considered paramount. “Two years after completing ambitious streetscape improvements along Old 41 that included new sidewalks, parallel parking and two round-abouts, there are signs that private development is beginning to reciprocate with several downtown projects in various stages of development.”
Bonita Springs officials did not return several telephone calls for comment on DPZ’s hiring or what their ultimate economic development goals are for the city, though they did provide links to public documents regarding DPZ’s process.
But developer Steve Hovland isn’t waiting for Bonita Springs’ DPZ-inspired plan to be finalized. He already has a pair of new “hyperflex” projects — a mix of mostly office with industrial space sprinkled in — in the works with DPZ recommendations baked in, and a third, at the entrance of downtown Bonita Springs, in the wings.
Hovland Real Estate also is putting the finishing touches on a new two-story office project nearby, in Collier County, at 808 Wiggins Pass Road, where he plans to move his corporate office within the month.
His two Bonita Springs projects will offer a mix of vintage-style architectural notes with modern-day design features such as WiFi, door controls via smartphones, LED lighting, high-end HVAC systems and hurricane-resistant windows.
In a nod to DPZ’s suggestions for Bonita Springs going forward, Hovland’s Causeway Corporate Park, a four-building, 94,000-square-foot mix of office and industrial space slated for completion in May, will feature ample glass that will cover more than half of each building’s façade.
To blend in the with the area’s industrial past, the skin of the buildings in the roughly $17 million project will comprise 22-gauge, galvanized corrugated steel, and the floors will be a polished concrete.
“We want to do something no one else around here has done, and then we want to do it over and over again,” says Hovland, the owner of Hovland Real Estate, during a tour of Causeway Corporate. “The glass we’re putting in — you’re going to feel like you’re outdoors here.”
“We want to do something no one else around here has done." — Steve Hovland, Hovland Real Estate
Already, 65% of the space in two commercial condominium buildings in the nine-acre park under construction have been sold, at about $200 per square foot, or between $240,000 and $1.25 million. Two additional buildings will be brought online as rentals.
At 27975 Old 41 Road, a largely vacant two-story building at the intersection of Old 41 and Bonita Beach Road just a short drive from Interstate 75, Hovland plans to begin work in the next 30 days on a $5 million renovation and rebranding.
When completed in May 2020, the 26,000-square-foot building — now office space that is home to the Medical Career Institute — will feature new windows, signage, fountains and retail space with outdoor dining.
“It’s a pretty ugly building now, but we’re going to turn it into something the city will be proud of. It’s at the gateway of everything that’s happening, and going to happen, in Bonita Springs,” Hovland says.
“To be able to re-use and re-purpose a building is more challenging and more fun, frankly,” Hovland says.
Adjacent to his Entrada retail and office project, another developer is constructing 290 garden-style apartments — another key element to success in DPZ plans.
“The new world is moving here,” Hovland says. “We’re going to have to build for people who want to ride skateboards to work in mind. My own feeling is you can’t be this close to Naples without things happening.”
Hovland has refined touches in two existing, nearby projects that have many elements that will be found in Entrada and Causeway Corporate Park.
At 16000 Old 41 Road, Hovland developed a series of small hyperflex office/warehouse spaces that also feature smart phone-controlled overhead garage doors, polished concrete floors, hurricane-resistant glass and 1960s architectural lines.
The project, comprising a series of 800-square-foot and larger spaces that are WiFi-enabled, has been fully leased since its completion in 2016.
“My theory is smaller spaces are the way to go, because today with technology people need less space to accomplish significantly more work,” Hovland says.
“This brings a whole new meaning to ‘flex’ space, though it is somewhat challenging because it’s more expensive to build,” he adds.
Nearby, at 808 Wiggins Pass Road, in Collier County, Hovland is putting the finishing touches on a new two-story office building that contains many of the same design elements that are influencing Entrada and Causeway Corporate Park.
The 7,500-square-foot project, where Hovland plans to relocate his business, features a façade that is 40% glass. The exterior walls are a bright white.
Inside, the building also contains a mix of modern and vintage, with polished concrete floors, exposed ductwork and lighting fixtures, and kitchenettes.
In addition to Hovland’s development and property management operations, the building is fully committed to an Italian restaurant on the ground floor; a stockbroker; and an immigration lawyer (who is also Hovland’s wife).
“We’ve figured out through trial and error that this is what people here want to rent,” he says. “I plan to be here forever, as far as I’m concerned.”