Before they’ll approve a 1.8 million sf mall, Lee County planners want the developer’s assistance in putting a research park on a nearby 100-acre site. The developer promises to help but won’t carve his promise in stone. That places a roadblock in front of the estimated $30 million project.

The Richard E. Jacobs Group of Cleveland plans to build Gulf Coast Towne Centre on a 244-acre site, three miles south of Fort Myers near the intersection of Alico Rd. and I-75.

The regional, with six anchors and 150 other stores, would be the centerpiece of University Village, a mixed-use complex also slated for 600 apartment units, 80,000 sf of offices and a hotel.

Since the land adjoins Florida Gulf Coast University, planners believe there should also be space for research and development in the vicinity. They want Jacobs to join the university and the Lee County Office of Economic Development in sponsoring the project and contributing to the infrastructure, finances and in-kind services.

Jacobs fears the price of getting rezoning required for the mall may be too steep–specifically kicking in 100 acres.

One route out of the impasse may be through Alico Inc., which owns the land for the mall project. Alico is considering donating a portion or all of the 100 acres for the R&D complex, according to Ben Hill Griffin III, CEO of Alico.

Meanwhile, Jacobs is proceeding with plans to add to its current portfolio of nearly 40 shopping centers by opening the project in 2003.

Insiders tell Rouse Co. of Maryland and Simon Property Group of Indianapolis are competing to build a mall in the same general area.

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