Fort Myers’ Downtown and Midtown neighborhoods will soon see more renovation and redevelopment. At a special meeting on Dec. 12 at City Hall, Fort Myers City Council unanimously approved a pair of projects that will simultaneously move the city into the future while preserving its past. Plans are moving forward on both the downtown hotel project and the restoration of the Atlantic Coast Line railroad station.
At the meeting, the city approved a development agreement with Mainsail Development International to collaborate on the plans for renovations to the Harborside Event Center and its accompanying parking garage. The conference center and garage will connect to a new downtown hotel, which is expected to hold 235 rooms, a rooftop bar and two restaurants. Hotel plans are expected to be revealed in mid-January. The development agreement represents the final steps that the city needed to take before Mainsail could break ground on the construction project.
The still-unnamed Autograph Collection Hotel by Marriott is expected to spark interest in the city as not only a tourist destination, but also a viable site for convention and business travel.
“For several decades, city leaders have aspired to attract a first class hotel to the River District area,” Fort Myers Mayor Randall P. Henderson, Jr. states. “Today, we have completed the final legal requirements to move this important piece of the big picture to fruition.”
Initial improvements to the Harborside Event Center started in mid-December, when the City began roof renovations.
City Council also approved a long-term lease that will restore the city’s historic train depot while also providing infrastructure for a state-of-the-art technology hub in the City’s Midtown neighborhood.
The former Atlantic Coast Line train station on Jackson St., which until recently housed the Southwest Florida Museum of History, will be leased to the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. The building will be restored through Foundation funds and a City subsidy and become the nonprofit’s new headquarters.
Additionally, the Foundation will construct a 10,000 square-foot addition to the depot that will house a technology hub. Part of the restoration of the historic station, the project will feature green building technology. It is an example of innovative thinking around community investments which will be a gathering place for philanthropy and nonprofits in the heart of downtown Fort Myers featuring vibrant spaces for work, gatherings and special events. In addition, plans include high speed fiber access provided by Florida LambdaRail, an internet research and education network.
The center along with the Internet network will be a resource for regional nonprofit organizations, and residents including students from nearby Dunbar High School which focuses on technology programs. The hub will bring the fastest and most current technology to not only downtown Fort Myers but to the Southwest Florida region.
“This is a catalytic process that will generate new growth downtown and generate redevelopment in the Midtown area,” explained Leigh Scrabis, director of the Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency. “It represents progress through partnerships.”
Work on the site is anticipated to begin in February, 2017.