Cape Coral is a city 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. The city's population estimate was 165,831 for 2013 and 181,211 for 2015. With an area of 120 square miles (310 km2), 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 679,513 for 2014. The city is known as a "Waterfront Wonderland", 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 km2) 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.
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.
There was a lot of hype, promotion and advertising. Celebrities like Bob Hope, Anita Bryant, and Hugh Downs were brought in. A movie with Phyllis Diller, The Fat Spy (1966), was filmed in Cape Coral and so were episodes of the TV show Route 66.
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.
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