Estero Village Council unanimously approved a $485,045 contract with North Naples-based RWA Engineering to design and permit the Estero Entertainment District.
The item came forth in preparation for plans for the 20-acre village-owned property on Williams Road, of which half is wooded and the other half is occupied by Golf Coast Driving Range.
In March, Council approved four recreational proposals for the site from Texas-based High 5 Entertainment, Crystal Lagoons, Kansas City, Missouri-based Chicken N Pickle and Atlanta-based Pickle & Social, with negotiations ongoing.
The contract approved Wednesday will allow RWA to assist with preliminary site planning, allowing design and permitting to start immediately after Council approves any partnerships.
“The objective here is to try to get the underground utilities completed quickly enough so that the vertical construction for pickleball and other activities there can occur,” Village Manager Steve Sarkozy said.
Council member Jim Ward was concerned about contracting for ramp planning, underground utilities and the road to service the 20-acre site before knowing who the tenants will be.
“We’re putting the cart before the horse and spending $450,000 before we truly understand what we’re doing on that property,” Ward said.
Sarkozy said there will be at least two tenants on the property needing water, sewer hookups and a road entering the site. He also said the village must have the elevation of the site properly positioned for path constructions. Storm water ponding and appropriate ditches and grades to get to the pond also are needed as part of the initial step.
“All of that is an initial part of the project that you have to have ready before the contractor can go in for the private investment on that parcel,” Sarkozy said. “What we’re trying to do is to stage this such that our public work does not impede or slow the private investment.”
Private construction is expected to take eight to nine months, with a target opening in November 2024.
With an ambitious deadline, Sarkozy said any of the work that can be done concurrently is going to work toward the mutual best interest of the village and whichever private entities are chosen.
Village Attorney Robert Eschenfelder clarified that the money put toward this contract is not wasted or risk money. “The strategy here, which is a good strategy, is let’s get the engineer doing what we know they need to do. The project is going to catch up to that, and then the two are eventually going to marry up,” he said.
The contract includes survey, civil construction plans, landscape and irrigation plans, permitting and construction services. RWA will only work on tasks when directed by village staff and the contract can be canceled at any time if the public/private partnerships don’t move forward.