Cape Coral is a municipality located in Lee County, Florida, United States, on the Gulf of Mexico. Founded in 1957 and developed as a master-planned, pre-platted community, the city grew to a population of 154,305 by the year 2010. With an area of 120 square miles (310 km), Cape Coral is the largest city between Tampa and Miami. It is a principal city in the Cape Coral – Fort Myers, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population estimate for the statistical area was 645,899 for 2009. The city is known as a "Waterfront Wonderland", since with over 400 mi (640 km) of navigable waterways, Cape Coral has more miles of canals than any other city in the world.
Cape Coral was founded in 1957. Real estate developers Leonard and Jack Rosen purchased a 103-square-mile (270 km) tract known as Redfish Point for $678,000 in that year and, in 1958, began development of the city as a master-planned, pre-planned community.
The Gulf American Corporation (GAC) was formed to develop the area. Canals were dug, streets paved, houses and businesses built. Cape Coral was promoted like no other Florida development. Celebrities were brought in to tout the benefits of "the Cape", as it is known locally. The first building was the Rosens' company headquarters, at the corner of Coronado and Cape Coral Parkway. Cape Coral's first permanent resident was Kenny Schwartz, the Rosens' general manager. Cape Coral's first four homes were completed in May 1958, on Riverside and Flamingo Drives. Gulf American operated a fleet of five Cessna 172 aircraft to show prospective buyers, the development flying 108,000 passengers in a single year.
Development continued through the early 1960s, mostly on Redfish Point, south of Cape Coral Parkway. By 1963, the population was 2,850; 1,300 buildings had been finished or were under construction; 80 mi (130 km) of road had been built, and 160 mi (260 km) of canals had been dug. The public yacht club, a golf course, medical clinic and shopping center were up and running. A major addition for Cape Coral was the construction of the 3,400 feet (1,000 m) long Cape Coral Bridge across the Caloosahatchee River, which opened in early 1964. Before the bridge, a trip to Fort Myers was more than 20 mi (32 km) via Del Prado Boulevard and over the Edison Bridge to cross the river.
The city incorporated in August 1970, and its population continued to grow rapidly until the real estate slowdown that gripped the region beginning in 2008.
In its early years, Cape Coral was known as a community with many retired residents. This changed with a population and construction boom in the 1990s, which brought in younger families and professionals. Twenty percent of the population is seasonal residents. Nowadays, the city has a wide variety of businesses, retail shops and restaurants on its major arteries: Cape Coral Parkway, Del Prado Boulevard, Santa Barbara Boulevard and Pine Island Road.
Geography and climate:
Cape Coral is located at 26°38′23″N 81°58′57″W / 26.639600°N 81.982471°W.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 120 square miles (310.8 km). 110.09 square miles (285.1 km) of it is land and 9.91 square miles (25.7 km) of it (9%) is water. Cape Coral is a large peninsula and is bordered in the south and east by the Caloosahatchee River and in the west by Matlacha Pass. The city of Fort Myers lies across the Caloosahatchee River to the south, and Matlacha and Pine Island lie across Matlacha Pass to the west. Matlacha Pass is home to Matlacha Pass National Wildlife Refuge and the state's Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve.
Cape Coral Florida has over 400 miles (640 km) of canals, more than any other city in the world. Most of the canals are navigable and some have access to the Gulf of Mexico. Cape Coral's canal system is so extensive that local ecology and tides have been affected.
The area averages 355 days of sunshine each year, but experiences precipitation on 145 days per year. While the summers are very warm, humid and rainy, the winters in Cape Coral are dry with moderate temperatures. Cape Coral receives about 54 inches of rain each year, the majority of which falls from May to September. During the summer months, afternoon rains are heavy yet brief. The city is affected by the annual hurricane season, which begins officially on June 1 and continues through November.
As of 2010, Cape Coral was the eleventh largest city in Florida by population. More than 60 percent of the population is between the ages of 15–64 and residents under 25 outnumber residents over 65. Southwest Florida's 18–24 age group is growing at a faster rate than the state of Florida and the United States.
As of 2010, there were 78,948 households out of which 23.0% were vacant. In 2000, 29.5% households had children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.2% are married couples living together, 9.3% have a female householder with no husband present, and 25.9% are non-families. 19.7% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.7% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.49 and the average family size is 2.85.
In 2000, the city's population is spread out with 22.6% under the age of 18, 5.8% from 18 to 24, 26.8% from 25 to 44, 25.3% from 45 to 64, and 19.6% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 42 years. For every 100 females there are 94.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 91.6 males.
In 2000, the median income for a household in the city is $43,410, and the median income for a family is $47,503. Males have a median income of $32,320 versus $25,068 for females. The per capita income for the city is $21,021. 7.0% of the population and 5.3% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 9.2% are under the age of 18 and 5.6% are 65 or older.
As of 2000, 87.18% of residents spoke English as their first language, while 7.61% spoke Spanish, 1.70% spoke German, 1.20% spoke Italian, 0.61% spoke French, and 0.41% spoke Tagalog as their mother tongue. In total, 12.81% of the total population spoke languages other than English.
The City of Cape Coral operates under the council-manager government form of government. City Council members are elected at large from seven districts. The mayor is also elected at large and is the eighth member of the council. The mayor presides over council meetings. The City of Cape Coral provides Police and Fire services within the city.
Interstate 75 passes within 10 miles (16 km) of Cape Coral and connects northward to Tampa and on to the Midwestern states; and southeastward to Miami/Fort Lauderdale. Cape Coral borders on U.S. Highway 41. U.S. 41 and I-75 can be accessed from State Route 78 (Pine Island Road). Within the city a network of arterial roadways are established. Cape Coral has approximately 1,100 miles (1,800 km) of roadways. In general, the north/south routes are evenly spaced apart every one or two miles (3 km) and most of them have at least four lanes.
Cape Coral is connected to Fort Myers by two bridges. The 3,400 feet (1,000 m) long Cape Coral Bridge connects Cape Coral Parkway to College Parkway in Fort Myers. The Midpoint Memorial Bridge connects Veterans Parkway to Colonial Boulevard. A number of other bridges span the Caloosahatchee River just east of Cape Coral.
Public transit services in Cape Coral are provided by LeeTran. LeeTran operates 18 fixed-route bus services, including 6 within Cape Coral. Buses operate Monday through Saturday between 5:00 am and 9:45 pm, depending on the route.
Cape Coral is 14 miles (23 km) from Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW), which serves nearly eight million passengers annually. The airport’s new Midfield Terminal Complex opened in 2005, with three concourses and 28 gates. In 2010, eighteen national and two international airlines, as well as the two major cargo companies, served the airport.
In addition to Southwest Florida International Airport, Cape Coral is also served by Page Field, a general aviation airport in Fort Myers eight miles (13 km) from Cape Coral. Charlotte County Airport (PGD) is located in Punta Gorda, just 10 miles (16 km) north of Cape Coral.
Acute care and trauma is provided by Cape Coral Hospital. A 225,000-square-foot (20,900 m) VA hospital is currently under construction in Cape Coral and will be completed by the end of 2011.
The City of Cape Coral operates water and sewer systems for the city. Plans are in place to continue increasing the service area for water, irrigation water and sewer services. The city uses Reverse Osmosis plants to produce drinking water from brackish groundwater by removing the salt and impurities. Sewage is collected and highly treated to produce reclaimed water, locally known as "rescued water". Reclaimed water is distributed throughout the City through a dual water pipe system, and used for irrigation. Alternatively, reclaimed water can be discharged into the Caloosahatchee River.
Electric power service in Cape Coral is provided by LCEC, a not-for-profit electric distribution cooperative. TECO Energy provides natural gas pipeline service to a limited portion of Cape Coral.
CenturyLink and Comcast Cable provide the communications infrastructure in Cape Coral. Telecom companies have installed fiber optics throughout the Cape. By one analysis, Cape Coral has broadband capacity several times greater than that of larger Florida cities. Survivable, underground fiber interconnectivity is in place at the city center. The Cape was among the first in Florida to deploy the new 4.9 GHz pre-WiMax wireless channel authorized by the FCC in 2003 for exclusive Public Safety use.
The economy in Cape Coral is based on local government services, health care, retail and real estate/construction. The City's Economic Development Office promotes and incentivizes business relocation to Cape Coral. In 2009 the City's top five employers were the Lee County School District, Cape Coral City Hall, Publix Supermarkets, Cape Coral Hospital and Walmart.
Cape Coral has continuously expanding public and private school systems with high performance standards. Cape Coral is part of the Lee County School District, which is operated by the Lee County Board of Education. As of 2009, the Board of Education operated 8 elementary, 6 middle and 5 high schools in the Cape.
There are four public high schools in Cape Coral: Cape Coral High School, built in the late 1970s, Mariner High School, which opened in 1987, and Ida S. Baker High School, founded in 2004 and named after one of the early principals of Cape Coral High School, with the building opening in 2005. The newest high school, Island Coast High School, opened its doors for the 2008–2009 school year.
In addition, the City of Cape Coral has created a municipal charter school system consisting of two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. The charter schools use the Core Knowledge and Cambridge Curricula. Since the system is public, there is no tuition. The municipal charter schools are available exclusively to children who live in Cape Coral.
The main campus of Edison State College is located immediately south of Cape Coral in Fort Myers. Edison State offers associate and bachelor’s degrees, plus technical training in fields such as Allied Health Programs, Computer Networking & Programming, Business Administration, Paralegal, Criminal Justice and Fire Science. 2009 enrollment was more than 16,000 students on four campuses.
One of Florida’s youngest state universities, Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), opened in 1997 in nearby Fort Myers and now serves more than 12,000 students. FGCU has established a Cape Coral satellite facility, which provides Cape students with a growing offering of core courses. The university offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees, including an Executive Master’s program, a College of Business and Engineering and Biotechnology programs.
Other colleges and universities serving the area ar Hodges University, Southwest Florida College and Rassmussen College.
Cape Coral is also home to High Tech North, a postsecondary educational institution operated by the Lee County public school system. It provides training in medical, computer and food-science fields. Employer-specific training, both on and off-site, is available through Business and Industry Services of Lee County which maintains an office in Cape Coral.
Culture and recreation:
The city features a sandy beach and fishing pier on the Caloosahatchee River at the public Yacht Basin & Club. Cape Coral is home to the expansive SunSplash Water Park (Virtual Tour of the Waterpark), more than 30 recreational parks, and seven golf courses. Cape Coral offers a variety of Gulf beaches in its immediate neighborhood, such as Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach. The area is known by birding enthusiasts for a wide variety of wildlife and the largest population of burrowing owls in the state of Florida.
Cape Coral’s 400-mile (640 km) canal system provides many residents with waterfront living with access to the Gulf of Mexico via the broad Caloosahatchee River and Matlacha Pass. The Parks and Recreation Department maintains three public boat launching facilities. The Gulf of Mexico provides access to smaller tropical islands, rookeries, and sports fishing grounds.
Cape Coral’s cultural assets include the Historical Museum, the Art Studio, the Cape Coral Art League, and the Cultural Park Theater, a 187-seat performing arts facility that serves as home to community actors. In addition, there are several regional arts and performance venues in the immediate area, including the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall.
Several parks and ecological preserves allow observation of the local wildlife. Elevated nature trails wind through the mangroves at Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve.
Mike Greenwell founded an amusement park called "Mike Greenwell's Bat-A-Ball & Family Fun Park" that opened in February 1992.
Flora and fauna:
The area supports waterfowl, wading birds, migrant songbirds, gopher tortoises, dolphins and reptiles. Rotary Park is home to wading birds, raptors, butterflies, foxes and other wildlife. Nature enthusiasts can track exotic birds and native fish from the boardwalk at Lake Kennedy and watch the West Indian Manatees at Sirenia Vista Park. Cape Coral is home to the largest population of Burrowing Owls in Florida.
Cape Coral is home to three invasive species. The Green Iguana and the Spiny-tailed Iguana and in 2009, the apex predator Nile Monitor was discovered. The iguanas are found throughout southern Florida and generally do not pose a threat. The Nile Monitor is however a large (7–9 feet), fast traveling, fast swimming, carnivore with a wide diet, which can include fish, fowl, and small mammals. The city's many waterways work against its capture and provide an easy transportation route around the city.
The city holds an annual Independence Day fireworks festival known as Red, White & BOOM!! This is the biggest single day event in the city and a large July 4 display for Southwest Florida. Red, White and BOOM is presented annually by the Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral.
Since 1985, the German-American Club holds an annual Oktoberfest, styled after the original held in Germany.The event draws on average 30,000 visitors.
The Cape Coral Festival of the Arts is held the second weekend of January every year. The event takes place on Cape Coral Parkway and attracts over 100,000 visitors. Nearly 300 artists and craftspeople from across the nation line the street to make this one of the largest and best attended art festivals in Southwest Florida.