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Eastern Collier set for further development, according to Barron Collier Companies executive: Moore About Business

Collier County growth is poised to grow substantially, according to Brian Goguen, chief investment officer at Barron Collier Companies in Naples. And, he said, the substantial growth is expanding into eastern Collier County starting with the town of Ave Maria.

Goguen addressed how his company helped the county navigate the delicate balance between continued development while maintaining environmental protection through Florida’s Rural Land Stewardship program.

"We got together with the environmental groups about 20 years ago and we came up with kind of a win/win solution. So now you can develop the farm fields that basically gives credits off environmentally sensitive areas. So they can't be developed, they will always be protected and only develop the farm fields."

Goguen said that even with a 45,000 acre build-out in eastern Collier, the additional land with its watershed flow-ways and panther corridor is permanently protected at no cost to taxpayers.

"The most important areas are always going to be protected at no cost to the taxpayers," he said. "If all of those green areas were purchased by the taxpayers it would cost more than a billion dollars. It's not gonna happen."

According to Goguen, Barron Collier was able to achieve this nature/development balance in the Ave Maria community area with the Rural Stewardship Setting Areas, land that will never be developed.

"We set aside 17,000 acres of property to do that. Now to put that in a frame of reference, that's almost twice the size of the entire city of Naples. That’s a lot of land. It's 26 square miles that we set aside at no cost to anybody. That is never gonna be developed so that we can develop the town of Ave Maria."

James, Pamela

He said that Ave Maria illustrates the expectations for sustainability from the Rural Land Stewardship program as compared to other growth areas in Southwest Florida.

"It's a requirement in the Rural Stewardship area that you not only do residential, but you have to include things like...we have a business park, we've got a Town Center, we’ve got other commercial areas that are embedded in the project. So, it's gonna be designed to be compact and sustainable."

Goguen said that while affordable housing is no longer available along the coast Eastern Collier could be a solution for some workforce housing.

"We gotta solve this problem. The only place where it can be solved at scale in Collier County is in eastern Collier County, because the price is more affordable out there. And I'm not talking about low, very low affordable housing," he said,"80 to 120% of median income, talking about firefighters, policemen, teachers, all those kind of jobs. So we are delivering that at Ave Maria."

To support the growing number of rooftops, Barron Collier also continues working on other projects, including Founders Square, a joint effort by Barron Collier, Trinity Commercial Group and Metro Commercial. It is a 55-acre mixed-use development of at least 8 restaurants, a 400-unit apartment community, a two-story medical office building and a three-story self-storage center.

"If you go out along that corridor on Immokalee Road, the first thing you hit here is like Founders Square. This right here is the busiest intersection in Collier County in terms of commercial activity. It is really amazing," he said. "I think there’s like 60 acres of things that are going out there commercially."

So, addressing the needs for the growing population of Collier County, while still protecting the critical environment, is a challenge that developers and builders will continue to face into the future.

Karen Moore is publisher of Southwest Florida Business Today and special to WGCU.

Publisher of SWFL Business Today