For the first year, Cape Coral has joined the 100 best towns in America in which to retire.
Naples also made the cut, but this is its fifth time on the list.
Those two cities are among 18 in Florida, including Punta Gorda, to get a mention in the just-released 2018 edition of the popular guidebook “America’s 100 Best Places to Retire.”
The book is available at WhereToRetire.com and Amazon. According to a news release, the editors of Where to Retire magazine ranked 800 U.S. towns after 11 months of research and 670 retiree interviews.
“Cape Coral has so much to offer our retired residents,” said Donna Germain, president/CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral.
Along with affordable housing, activities for seniors at the Tony Rotino Center, the Lake Kennedy Senior Center and other city facilities, there are programs such as yoga and Zumba classes, dinner dances, day trips, billiard tournaments and golf, she pointed out.
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The final selection represents 35 states and includes 18 Florida locales. The chosen cities vary in size, climate, amenities and lifestyle, and each falls into one of 10 categories that focus on the city’s defining feature, such as beaches, mountains, low costs, four seasons and appealing downtowns.
"It looks like y'all are doing many good things," said Annette Fuller, editor of Where to Retire magazine and the book.
She said Cape Coral's Southwest 47th Terrace amenities and its proposed Village Square development helped vault the city into the listing, ranking among the "Best Main Street Towns." The proximity to Sanibel and Pine Island also helped, she said.
She acknowledged that Naples might typify the "main street towns" designation a little better.
"It's clearly the Fifth Avenue area," Fuller said, that put it in the Best Downtown category.
"We've seen so many pictures of that. Every retiree who was interviewed talked about it."
Fifth Avenue South is Naples' Main Street, exuding small-town friendliness with historical landmarks amid the sophisticated boutiques, neighborhood shops and colorful buildings.
Kevin Ahmadi, executive director at Gulf Coast Village, a retirement community, moved to Cape Coral 14 years ago. There were about 100,000 people living there.
"We didn't even have a Starbucks," he said. Today the city's population is closing in on 200,000.
"Our secret is out — darn," he joked about the ranking.
"We have 400 miles of canals, and everyone can agree, it's the last affordable place for people to have access to the waters," Ahmadi said. "I think there's so much more now. Families have actually raised their kids here. I remember when I would do orientation with all employees and ask where they all were from. No one was from here. Now I've got people saying I'm from here."
Gulf Coast Village serves about 450 seniors daily from its independent living suites to assisted living and high-level care. He said he's seeing adult children convince their parents to move here.
With almost 30 years in Southwest Florida, Gulf Coast Village is continuing to expand with a community called The Preserve. It is a skilled nursing, transitional care and assisted living center at Six Mile Cypress Parkway and Michael G. Rippe Parkway in south Fort Myers.
The region's parks and quality of health care help his cause, he said.
Lisa and John Valdespina moved to Cape Coral from the Bronx in New York, they told the editors.
John Valdespina is a retired first responder, and Lisa's parents lived in Tampa. On a visit they discovered Cape Coral.
"It was a new city," John Valdespina said. "We wanted a fresh place to start; we looked at the city and were very impressed. We have a canal in the backyard."
"How cool is that?" Fuller asked.
Naples and Cape Coral joined Annapolis, Maryland; Charleston, South Carolina; Dade City; Frederick, Maryland; Glenwood Springs, Colorado; Greenville, South Carolina; Lexington, Kentucky; and St. Augustine in the "Best Main Street Towns."
"Naples was just absolutely almost a no-brainer," Fuller said.
Punta Gorda ranked among the "Best Small Towns."
Cape Coral residents and visitors say the Southwest Florida city has a lot to offer, and Forbes magazine agrees. The national business publication lists the Cape among 25 cities from across the nation as a desirable retirement destination. Sarah Coward/news-press.com.