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News Clips 04/17/2013
Developer extends 640-acre donation offer to FGCU for expansion
Source: Naples Daily News, 04/16/13
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By Laura Layden
A real estate investment and development company wants to donate 640 acres to Florida Gulf Coast University, giving it room to grow.
In July, Fort Myers-based Alico Inc. announced its sale of 5,187 acres near the university in Estero to a local development company, led by O.J. Buigas, for $10 million.
Now, he’s proposing giving a chunk of that land to the university as a gift.
An “information-only” presentation on the potential donation is scheduled for today’s meeting of FGCU’s board of trustees. No vote is scheduled, as any donations first must be accepted by the university’s foundation, which collects and administers gifts.
Tina McCain Matte, a spokeswoman for Buigas and his Fort Myers-based company, Private Equity Group, said they had no comment ahead of the meeting, except that Buigas’ firm is looking forward to participating in the presentation.
The company has extended its offer in a letter of intent, which it describes as an attempt to help FGCU with its future growth needs and to “outline a means by which the two parties can cooperate with each other as neighboring property owners.”
Buigas is offering two stretches of land. Both abut Alico Road to the north, and the eastern piece extends south to Corkscrew Road. The land touches the campus.
Susan Evans, FGCU’s spokeswoman, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Monday.
While there won’t be a vote by the trustees today, FGCU President Wilson Bradshaw will look for direction on whether to move ahead.
The letter of intent isn’t a binding agreement, but will set the stage for further negotiations to form a public-private partnership. The donation is part of a plan to create a master-planned, university-focused community, Buigas writes in a letter to Bradshaw.
“We believe this collective vision will create a truly unique setting few universities can offer by establishing a thriving, vibrant community that will assist in attracting the best students, faculty and staff to Florida Gulf Coast University,” Buigas said.
Buigas went on to say the donated land could be used for many purposes, including expanding the availability of affordable housing to faculty, staff and students, improving transportation access, and building a hotel with a conference center.
This would be the largest land gift made to FGCU since 1991, when the original 760 acres was given for what became the state’s 10th university.
Private Equity Group proposes a 4,530-acre community. The site already includes more than 1,600 acres of lakes and the developer plans to restore another 1,264 acres for conservation, which would include the re-establishment of the Stewart Cypress Slough, according to a company fact sheet about the project.
The development project still must wind its way through the approval process. But the land donation to FGCU doesn’t appear to be tied to that approval.
Private Equity Group, headquartered in Fort Myers, has been in business for more than 30 years. In that time, it has developed more than 14,000 acres in Florida, building more than 8,000 homes and 16 shopping centers.