Immokalee Today Florida's 21st Century

Immokalee Zocalo now an award-winning public plaza!

The Immokalee Zocalo - or public plaza - is now an award-winning town square! 

The Zocalo, formally opened in May, won two prestigious 2014 Sand Dollar Awards presented by the Collier Building Industry Association (CBIA) for outstanding achievement in construction. 

Well, okay, the awards were actually given to Surety Construction Company, which built the plaza, but the whole of Immokalee and the Immokalee CRA, which bought the land for the plaza at the corner of First Street and Main Street and paid for the plaza's construction, share in the awards. 

The biggest Sand Dollar Award for the Zocalo was being named by the CBIA, the Best Public Works Project (under $100,000) in Collier County. 

The cute, imaginative bicycle racks in the plaza also won the award for Best Specialty Feature - By a Builder (of any construction project in Collier). 

"This is certainly an honor for Surety Construction Company and the community of Immokalee benefited greatly from having it as the construction partner on the project," said Brad Muckel, executive director of the Immokalee CRA. "But these awards are also an honor for the people of Immokalee who placed great pride and interest in the Zocalo and are enjoying the rewards of having such a wonderful public gathering spot."

Naples architect David Corban designed the plaza and Naples landscape architect Ellen Goetz designed the landscaped system of trees and plants. 

The CBIA is a not-for-profit professional association of dedicated professionals who are inspired to make a difference in our community through advocacy, education, networking and philanthropy on behalf of the construction industry. CBIA is one of 800 state and local associations and operates under the auspices of the Florida Home Builders Association and the National Association of Home Builders. 

Economic blueprint for Immokalee on the horizon!

By next summer Immokalee could have a new economic blueprint for its future as "Florida in the 21st Century." 

Development of the plan will be a joint project of the Immokalee CRA, Collier County government and the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, a five-county intergovernment body based in Fort Myers. 

The plan will analyze the economic strengths and weaknesses of Immokalee, evaluate realistic opportunities for growth which complement the region's rural setting and develop a strategic plan for sustainable economic development in the decades to come. The project will cost $25,000 and will be funded by a state grant. 

"Immokalee's economy focused primarily on agriculture in the past with many farms and packaging plants in the surrounding area," explains documents prepared for the DEO. "While agriculture remains an important economic base, other economic activities are need to bring diversity and new opportunities.  

"Recent improvements include the new Ave Maria subdivision less than 10 miles away, plans for a new Walmart store, construction of a new hotel a the Seminole Immokalee Casino, infrastructure investment by the Immokalee CRA to improve sidewalks and drainage and a new vocational school," the documents continues. "Although these are small developments they indicate an expanding community.

"The Immokalee CRA would like to incorporate these improvements, along with other programs  it offers to expand and grow the economy and create more opportunities for Immokalee residents in a unified, focused strategy." 

Those "other programs" to which the documents refer include the community's designation as a Foreign Trade Zone, a HUB Zone, a Florida Enterprise Zone, a Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern (RACEC) and its inclusion in the Florida Heartland Rural Economic Development Initiative (FHREDI). 


CRA moving ahead with more drainage, sidewalk projects

The Immokalee CRA continues to improves the community's drainage system and continues improving safety by building additional sidewalks. 

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) has approved the plans and specifications for two additional projects, both part of a long-term Disaster Recovery Initiative, approved by the U.S. Congress.

The larger of two projects is a $2.1 million storm water drainage system, sidewalks and roadway improvements to Immokalee Drive and North 16th Street.

The second, which is primarily a pedestrian safety initiative, is a $500,000 drainage installation and sidewalk construction project along both sides of Colorado Avenue, from South First to South Ninth Streets in the vicinity of Pinecrest Elementary School.  
The CRA will move very soon to hire a general contractor and begin construction. The procurement process will take approximately two months and construction should begin in November.  

"This approval marks a significant milestone in the execution of both projects," said Bradley Muckel, executive director of the Immokalee CRA. "The project timetable fits perfectly into the SW FLA dry season." 

CRA adds bike helmets to annual Lipman backpack giveaway!

Bike Helmet Give-awayIt's part good ol' community festival and part pre-school, get-the-kids-ready event and for the third year Immokalee's Lipman companies held its Backpack Giveaway event August 2 at the Immokalee Sports Complex. 

Hundreds of kids - and parents - came out for the Saturday event and the Immokalee Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) also participated by giving away bicyle helmets to Immokalee school children. 

"With bicycle and pedestrian safety a growing concern in Immokalee, we wanted to contribute something to the Lipman companies' generous effort by also help kids safe during the coming school year and beyond," said Bradley Muckel, CRA executive director. 

School begins in Collier County in two weeks. The Lipman companies - long known as 6Ls Farms - is one of the oldest and largest family-owned produce growers and distributors in the U.S. and the single largest field tomato producer in the nation. 

In addition to the annual backpack giveaway, Lipman provides over $60,000 in college scholarships each year to high school students in Collier and Lee counties. 

Immokalee CRA advances community's economic development

The potential of Immokalee as a regional or state manufacturing, distribution center was on the mind of regional, state and private evaluators earlier this month when they toured the community. 

The staff of two important state economic development agencies – Enterprise Florida and Florida's Heartland Regional Economic Development Initiative (FHREDI) – and a private investment firm – Site Selection Group – toured Immokalee July 15, hosted by the Immokalee Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). 

The purpose of the visit was to evaluate the community of Immokalee against other interior Florida communities for its readiness to compete for regional manufacturing and distribution development. The exercise allowed the CRA constituent-partner agencies to assess the community competitiveness of Immokalee for future corporate investment.  

During the visit members of these three agencies were given a windshield tour of the Immokalee community followed by a tour of the 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility near the Immokalee Regional Airport currently being offered for sale by Colliers International

Career Source Southwest Florida staff members also provided details on job placement services, training, financial aid, internship programs and career development workshops. 

CRA staff provided detailed information to the group on economic development incentives related to the Florida State Enterprise Zone Program, the Federal HUB Zone Program, Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern (RACEC) and Foreign Free Trade Zone incentives

The tour ended with a visit to the Immokalee Technical Center (iTECH), where the group learned of the various programs of study offered by iTECH, its statistical data and how the facility can build training programs geared to a wide range of prospective industrial developers. 

As the acting Enterprise Zone Coordinators for the community, the Immokalee CRA regularly provides technical assistance to local businesses searching for economic development incentive programs. The July site selection exercise furthers the CRA’s expertise in economic development, not only on a local level but also from a regional perspective. 

Through strategic partnerships, the CRA will continue to explore and develop similar endeavors geared toward the shifting economic base of the community.    

FHREDI is a regional economic development organization representing Desoto, Glades, Hendry, Highlands, and Okeechobee Counties, the Cities of Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay and the Community of Immokalee.   Leveraging regional resources, FHREDI serves as a catalyst for government and business collaboration. Its purpose is to market, facilitate and advocate for economic development opportunities that will bolster the tax base and personal income for these areas. The targeted industries of the region are global trade and logistics, manufacturing, food processing and medical.

Immokalee CRA saves church $15,000 in sidewalk repairs

By its presence and advocacy for all Immokaleans, the Immokalee Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) recently saved $15,000 for the Immokalee Church of the Nazarene in sidewalk costs. 

The church, a long-standing and well-regarded congregation, is in the midst of a building campaign with the help of Thomas Riley Artisans Guild and what it doesn't need is an additional $15,000 tacked on top of its expansion effort. 

Through negotiation with Collier County, the Immokalee CRA was able to reduce the costs of the sidewalk improvements and work out a solution for all - without costing Imokalee or Collier County taxpayers any additional costs. 

 "On behalf of my dad, Pastor Paul, and  the Immokalee Church of the Nazarene, I thank you for taking the time to look into this for us and I also want to say thank you for your continuing effort, along with Christie (Bentancourt) and the CRA team,  to make OUR HOME (Immokalee) a better place to live," said Flavel Paul, community and church leader. "Thank you so much for your effort and commitment to the people in Immokalee. Just in case you didn’t realize it, YOU and the CRA Gang just save the church At least $ 15,000.00 by getting involved."

Immokalee CRA in disagreement with Collier County about grant fulfillment

In its July 16 edition, the Naples Daily News published a piece detailing - to some degree - a disagreement over grant funding currently being worked out between the Immokalee CRA, Collier County Department of Housing, Human & Veteran Services (HHVS) and the Collier County Clerk's Finance Department.  


The two grants, which originated at The United Stated Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), but are administered locally by HHVS, were approved by Collier County and provided to the Immokalee CRA to cover operational costs associated with its Immokalee Business Development Center (IBDC) Program, which was created and managed in years past under a former CRA Director as a for its business incubator.

The IBDC served as an economic tool facilitating the growth and development of new and existing businesses in Immokalee by sponsoring business related workshops, trainings, information technology, hands-on-management assistance, education, technical support services, networking resources, and financial counseling.

What has developed is a difference of opinion about the official HUD definition of “job creation” which was a performance requirement tied to the two grants. how effective those grants were. 

No one has accused the CRA or IBDC of any wrong-doing. The substance of requests made by HHVS the county finance department to the CRA is primarily focused on specific documentation related to the outcome of the IBDC business counseling services.  

“We are still compiling the requested documentation,” explained Immokalee CRA Manager Executive Director Bradley Muckle. “Given the enormity of the task, it will require at least two weeks to produce the mountain of information requested.

“I expect it to be in the neighborhood of hundreds of pages. This is only one step in a monitoring exercise that may take months, if not years to play out, given the level of detail required to substantiate job creation on an ‘after-the-fact’ basis.”



One of Immokalee's best known packing houses FOR SALE!

It is something of an Immokalee landmark, evan among Immokalee packing houses and it's for sale: all 102,000 square feet of it at the asking price just over $4.6 million! 

The Colliers International packing house, 212 Jerome Drive (known to some as the Colliers-Noble packing house), went on the market recently and is expected to draw many interested parties. 

Naples residents (and many others) will be familiar with the property as a frequent site of Collier County's Annual Farm-City Barbeque, a traditional celebration of Collier County agricultural heritage held each Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving. 

The packing house is ready to go and is strategically located within the community, very close to the Immokalee Regional Airport and all truck routes. 

It's ripening chambers have double doors for loading from the packing warehouse and unloading straight to the trucks on the outsident dock. The chambers are all climate controled to allow for flexible ripening schedules and refigeration operations. 

It has 22 refrigerated chambers with a total capacity of 66 loads, was built of steel in 1983 with a total space of 102,584 square feet and a receiving area totalling 26,220 square feet. A truck scale is on site and the plant's complete land area is just under 10 acres. 

Read more at our Immokalee CRA property listing page or contact directly at Colliers International: Jim Garinger, senior managing director and principal: 239-985-8072; or Fred Kolb, senior associate for land & industrial services, 239-985-8081. 

Infrastrucure and economic plans top "wish list" for Immokalee CRA

Expanding a strategic street, developing a community economic plan, continuing stormwater utilities and business enhancement top the tentative list of workplan goals for the Immokalee Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) in the coming year. 

The tentative list, which will be formally approved June 18 by the CRA's citizens advisory committee, also includes a number of other community enhancements all in line with the overall goal to transform the community into a shining example of Florida in the 21st Century. 

The citizens advisory committee culled the workplan list for Fiscal Year 2014-15, which begins October 1, during a planning session earlier this month and will discuss, tweak, edit and formally adopt the workplan Wednesday when it meets at 8:30 a.m. at the CareerSource Southwest Florida center (the One-Stop Shop), 750 South 5th Street. 

The meeting is free and open to the public, as are all Immokalee CRA citizens advisory committee meetings. 

Here is the complete priority list: 

  • Little League Extension (extend to State Road 82) 
  •  Develop a written Immokalee Economic Development Plan 
  •  Continue to invest in supporting infrastructure; utilities, stormwater, etc. 
  •  Create Welcome Center with Chamber, etc on Main Street with business focus 
  •  Coordinate with Code Enforcement to eliminate unsafe or unsanitary housing/business 
  •  Continue to improve and maintain street lighting 
  •  Examine possibilities for expedited construction of Loop Road 
  •  Review roadway plans, identify existing conflicts, and roadway and design deficiencies 
  •  Promote and foster leadership via training and partnerships 
  •  Advocate for expansion of medical services including a Urgent Care Center 
  •  Evaluate opportunities to purchase/revitalization of foreclosed or distressed properties. 
  •  Develop Immokalee Leaders 
  •  Partner with Collier County and Big Cypress Basin to improve water management in Immokalee 
  •  Implement Public Realm Plan 
  •  Remove or rehabilitate substandard buildings on Main Street


The priorities, once formally adopted will help give the CRA staff a clear direction in the coming year and sets priorities for the allocation of staff time and the CRA budget. 


First Street Zocalo opens to the public!!

Immokalee's newest landmark - and gathering place for the community - was formally opened to the public May 20 with lively festivities, honored guests and plenty of music and food - Immokalee style!! 

The Immokalee First Street Plaza - or Zocalo - is now part of the community. 

zo·ca·lo  (s?′kä-l?′)n. pl. zo·ca·los A town square or plaza, especially in Mexico.

Collier County Commissioner Tim Nance was on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremonies and the crowd was entertained by the Immokalee High School Drum Line and band, the Immokalee Community School Dirty Orchestra by Black Violin and the tropical beats of Caribbean Groove. 

Together with a future companion gathering spot at Main and 9th Street, the plazas will serve as linchpins of the Immokalee Public Realm Plan which won the 2010 Award of Merit from the Florida Planning & Zoning Association.

Collier County Commissioners approved the purchase of the two lots at the corner of Immokalee's First Street and Main Street in 2012 and awarded the First Street Plaza design contract to Naples architect David Corban in January 2013. Surety Construction Company built the plaza. The park's landscape was designed by renowned landscape architect Ellen Goetz.