FORT MYERS, FL (July 28, 2008) – It was 40 years ago that the first residents moved into Shell Point Retirement Community. Reverend Ralph and Emilie Torgerson, a retired missionary couple, were taking a chance that the community’s founders would be able to live up to their proposed vision and promises of a crown-jewel retirement community that celebrated the positive, vibrant possibilities of retiree life.
That was 1968. Today, residents no longer have to make that leap of faith, as Shell Point Retirement Community has become the unparalleled community that its original planners envisioned it would be, and so much more.
As Shell Point celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, the community is a national leader in the retirement industry. During the past four decades, Shell Point has experienced several economic cycles similar to the recent downturn of the economy and real estate market. These economic ups and downs have proven that Shell Point has a strong foundation and that the community is capable of weathering fair or foul economic weather.
From its original start with just two residents, Shell Point is now home to more than 2,100 people. The original handful of employees has grown as well and Shell Point employs 850 people as one of Lee County’s top employers.
A Historical View
Shell Point Retirement Community, known originally as Shell Point Village, was founded in 1968, as a non-profit ministry of The Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) to provide independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, and a variety of amenities and support services for seniors.
Initial facilities for the community were constructed on property donated to the C&MA by local landowner and developer Berry C. Williams. The property was located near Sanibel Island, where the Caloosahatchee River empties into the Gulf of Mexico, and featured outstanding river views.
Through the next two decades the island community continued to grow and early residents at Shell Point were offered several residential options, including two-story garden courts, resort-style mid-rises, and luxury atrium buildings. Build-out of the original 75-acre island was completed in 1995, when the community was home to 1,350 residents.
Shell Point Grows
Once the island reached build-out, the organization’s management, led by President Peter Dys, could have easily switched to autopilot and allowed the successful community to maintain its course. After all, Shell Point was at the forefront of the retirement industry and enjoyed a national reputation for excellence. This reputation had been built through a dedication to excellence and continuous improvement and inspired the leadership to look further into additional options for expanding the community and broadening the services it provided to its residents.
In 1997, the perfect opportunity presented itself. Shell Point purchased 750 acres of nearby property along both sides of Shell Point Boulevard, allowing the community to enlarge, enhance and expand the services already offered on the island campus. Planning began immediately to develop approximately 300 acres, leaving the remaining acreage as protected natural environment.
As part of the original land use plan, Shell Point restored the property to the west of Shell Point Boulevard to its natural state by removing exotic plants and mosquito ditches created by the previous landowners. Shell Point then deeded the property to the State of Florida to be maintained as a permanent natural preserve.
Along with the expansion came several subtle changes, which included changing the name from Shell Point Village to Shell Point Retirement Community, and lowering the entrance age from 65 to 60 as more retirees began starting their retirements at younger ages and desired the security of life care.
The addition of the new property enabled the community to add new neighborhoods, and development of Shell Point’s second neighborhood, The Woodlands, began soon after the purchase. This neighborhood was completed in 2005 and contained four independent residential buildings surrounding a 35,000 square foot, two-story Commons building as well as the addition of Shell Point’s second assisted living facility, The Arbor.
Scrub along McGregor Boulevard was replaced with a new entrance feature that included a lake, fountains, and a curved sign wall that announced Shell Point’s presence and traffic through the sales center dramatically increased. Many people who had passed by the area for years suddenly became aware of the community and expressed an interest in residency. An unprecedented number of units were contracted during that time.
A commercial center was also built at the entrance to the property featuring a Country Inn & Suites hotel that is just 1.6 miles from the Sanibel Causeway. Open to the public, the four-story hotel had 112 rooms, conference rooms, a heated swimming pool and fitness facilities. Although Shell Point already had one small motel on its property for several decades, the presence of a second hotel, belonging to a well-known chain, increased the number of visitors to the community.
In 2004, during the construction of The Woodlands, Shell Point launched pre-sales of its third neighborhood, Eagles Preserve. Although Hurricane Charley briefly interrupted construction of Eagles Preserve in 2004, the neighborhood was successfully completed and occupied in the summer of 2007. This quiet enclave community is nestled in the back nine of Shell Point Golf Club’s championship 18-hole golf course and featured 10 independent residential buildings, of 110 units, many with private garages.