Got my hands on a recent, yet-to-be-published magazine interview of Jim Wallace, the sometimes outspoken designer/builder of Genova, Rapallo and Lighthouse Bay here in Estero and 3 other communities in Naples. Some interesting questions and some very interesting answers.
So I decided to share!
Q: How is Genova different than other communities you have built, and why is Estero ready for this concept now?
A: First…Genova is designed more for seasonal and full-time residents than vacation home buyers. In fact of the 90 buyers so far, over half are full-time residents compared to about a quarter of the buyers at Lighthouse Bay and Rapallo.
Most Genova buyers are downsizing from upscale single-family homes or villas in local golf club communities like Shadow Wood, Bonita Bay, West Bay, Pelican Landing and Belle Lago.
Second…Genova is a hybrid, combining the luxury features, open plans and outdoor living of single-family homes with the carefree, “lock-and-lock”, socially vibrant condominium lifestyle. And it has a staffed, resort-lifestyle club. Best of all its at a substantially lower cost-to-own.
To the last part of your question…Why is Estero ready for Genova? It’s real simple. Estero is largely populated with baby boomers now 52 to 70 years old. The recent US recession impacted everyone’s mindset… regardless of income or age…but particularly millenials and baby boomers. As a result a lot of baby boomers today are choosing to simplify life. But they’re still very active and not ready or excited about ALF (assisted living ). So Genova’s resort-lifestyle and single-family features in a condo is the perfect fit.
Q: How much demand is there for non-gated, walkable communities, as designated in the Village of Estero Master Plan?
A: Everyone wants walkable …but there is virtually no demand for non-gated communities. Everyone today wants security. So every community needs access-control in one form or another. That’s why Genova has a 24/7 manned gatehouse. But Genova is different from typical gated communities. Genova has no perimeter walls. Instead Genova incorporates something called stealth security, using our entry lakes, buildings and fencing hidden in landscaping to keep the community safe. Makes Genova physically exclusive but visually inclusive.
Q: How will the opening of Genova impact the Estero/SWFL economy?
A: In many ways…In addition to the positive impacts of connectivity within the Estero Village Center and precedent-setting design Genova is building off-site public improvements such as the
pocket park, lakeside sitting areas and median landscaping along Via Coconut Point Road and a linear park along Corkscrew Road. We’re also contributing $100,000 toward the new entrance to Estero Community Park.
Locally and regionally Genova will generate $72 million of local construction employment resulting in an estimated $190 million in regional employment.
Genova is also paying impact fees over $800,000 to Lee County and over $1,300,000 to the Village of Estero.
In addition Genova homeowners will pay approximately $1.2 million annually in property taxes.
And since most will be permanent residents they’ll be spending locally year-round at Publix, gas stations, services, restaurants and stores.
Q: What is the target opening date?
A: The first residential building will be completed in late summer 2017 and the club will open in the fall 2017.
Q: Rumor has it 50% of the units are already sold. Is this true?
A: It depends on how you do the math. The first building is 36 condos and 35 are sold. The second building is 34 condos and 33 are sold. The third building is 33 condos and 22 are sold. So…of the first 3 buildings and 103 residences released for sale 90 condos are sold. That’s about 85%. But Genova is 205 residences in 6 buildings so overall we’re 44% sold. That said we do have people waiting for the fourth building to be released so obviously we’re very pleased
Q: As someone who’s been involved in the Estero development scene a long time, what is your forecast for trends in 2017 and beyond?
A: No doubt the 15 months of researching, discussing, arguing and finally collaborating on the Estero Center comprehensive plan amendment was arduous for everyone but now that its in place I believe you’ll see increased development of high-density, high-quality, non-golf communities as well as both planned and in-fill parcels of retail and office.
Right now the moderate to upscale condominium market is significantly under-developed in Estero. However I expect a decline in new single-family-home development as rising lot costs are unsustainable given the hot-spot in the market is still $350,000 to $400,000.
Q: Although Estero has a reputation for being tough on design requirements why is the Village of Estero a desirable place to build — despite the additional costs?
A: In reality good design is not necessarily more expensive to build. It just takes more time. And it takes a sincere desire and willingness to collaborate.
Having sat on the Estero Design Review Committee for 8 years I saw first hand how constructive insight from seasoned professionals like Joe McHarris, Bill Prysi, Al O’Donnell and others…hopefully including myself… made substantial improvements to large…think Walmart, Lowes and Extra Storage…as well as small…think First Watch and Olive Garden… projects with little or no additional costs.
The danger for the Village of Estero is the introduction of political influence into the previously balanced playing field of advisory committees. Agendas can stifle collaboration, creativity and the better mousetrap. Some of that undue influence has been seen since Estero’s incorporation. It has subsided somewhat recently but if it is not contained in the future the exception design Estero has enjoyed in the past will evaporate as the best developers go elsewhere.
On the flip-side, if Estero… including its residents… embraces collaboration instead of confrontation, over-regulation and NIMBY politics, the Village will flourish… developers and employers will compete to be here…property vales will increase… residents will get the neighborhoods they want… and Estero will create a true and tangible sense of place
Thank you for checking-out this interview!
If you would like to know more about Jim Wallace, Genova or have any other kinds of questions, don’t hesitate to contact Debbi or Karen at 239-948-2929