New development sites are commonplace in Estero, given the multitude of projects already underway. A Culver’s near Coconut Point and a Wawa in Estero Town Commons may be joining the long list of developments coming to the village.
The proposed 4,052-square-foot Culver’s is on a 2.3-acre parcel at the southeast corner of U.S. 41 and Pelican Colony Boulevard. The Wisconsin-based restaurant will feature a double drive-thru, reducing traffic congestion for the fast-food chain.
“We want to make sure that the site functions well,” project engineer Brent Addison said. “We don’t want to design something that’s not going to work or cause problems.”
Traffic and functionality were a concern for the Estero Village Zoning Planning and Design board members when listening to the proposed development site at the public information presentation given Tuesday. Project engineers were recommended to make adjustments to the location of the loading area, dumpster and parking spaces for safety and functionality reasons. A traffic assessment for the proposed site has not been completed yet, however, concerns were eased by the traffic light plan already in place for that intersection.
The board also suggested changes to the proportions of parts of the building, along with critiques of the color palette and inconsistency with the surrounding architectural style in Estero. Board member Scotty Wood referenced the other Culver’s on Corkscrew Road and how that existing location differs considerably from the proposed site. “The architecture just seems to be something that I’m having difficulty connecting to the Mediterranean or Florida vernacular, or the other types of architecture that we embrace here,” he said.
The architecture and design do not comply with the “beauty book” of Coconut Point, according to community development director, Mary Gibbs, who suggested the architects look over the local design criteria before bringing their presentation back to the board.
The proposed Wawa location is at 10081 Estero Town Commons, located on the south side of Corkscrew Road on the parcel previously occupied by Ruby Tuesday in the Lowe’s-anchored Estero Town Commons center at Corkscrew Road and Three Oaks Parkway.
In order to get the board to recommend Wawa’s plan to council, a deviation for the gas station being within 500 feet of another gas station and a zoning amendment to allow both a convenience store and a fast-food restaurant must move forward.
The property was originally zoned from agriculture to commercial planned development in 2003, stating that the zoning limits development to either a convenience store or a fast-food restaurant.
Indianapolis-based Kite Realty Group owns the shopping center except for the parcel the proposed Wawa is on, which is now owned by Brightwork Development. The covenant that goes with the land led Brightwork to approach Kite about what they would agree to for Wawa to be able to move forward. They agreed on the condition of allowing both a convenience store and a fast-food restaurant, as for Kite to not lose its ability to do fast food with Wawa coming in because of the zoning limits.
In the early 2000s, there was worry of a proliferation of fast-food restaurants and gas stations in the area, resulting in the zoning limits put in place on the property at the time. “We all know how Corkscrew Road developed since then,” said Dan DeLisi, the land-use planner for the site. “Right now, as we speak, the only fast-food restaurant is the Arby’s and Culver’s, and there will be a third with Dunkin’ Donuts at Estero Crossing. The idea that there needs to be either one or the other is certainly less applicable now than it was back then.”
Conditions involving the design of the Wawa, a Pennsylvania-based company, were made prior to the final recommendation. Wawa’s iconic tilted canopy did not sit in favor of the board, resulting in a request for the reconsideration of the canopy design to be more aligned with the aesthetics of Estero.
“This is actually a trademark that they have in place,” said Nathan Griffis, principal for Cuhaci Peterson architectural firm, whose one of many clients is Wawa. “There’s a lot of history in this, obviously, it’s a big part of their identity and that’s why we continue to propose it.”
Board member James Tatooles referenced the Walmart in Estero as an example of a highly recognized company adjusting their signature design to accommodate the standards of the village. “Every other Walmart around is blue,” Tatooles said. “This Walmart is not blue and it doesn’t look like a Walmart, yet it has a thriving business.”
Despite three votes in opposition of proceeding, the board recommended the council approve the convenience store and fast-food restaurant in order for Wawa to move forward.