Campo Felice I
In September 2017 after much anticipation, residents of Campo Felice I, the 55 and older independent senior living community, were finally able to move into the 24-story luxury residential tower. Located at 2500 Edwards Drive in the River District, Campo Felice I offers 323 independent living units and 14 lodging units with a philosophy that fully supports the “live, work and play” vision described in the 2010 Downtown Redevelopment Plan. The project refurbished the dilapidated Amtel Hotel, which had been a local eyesore for nearly a decade. The project had been approved for a Development Agreement tax rebate of up to $9,726,407 over 19 years.
The SWFL Community Foundation partnered with the City of Fort Myers and the CRA to remake the former railroad depot into the state of the art facility. Located in the Midtown section of the Downtown redevelopment area, it is a renovation of the historic train station, with a 12,000 sq. ft. new addition. The CRA pledged a subsidy of $100,000 annually for 5 years for improvements to the former Depot building, with the City of Fort Myers matching the CRA’s funds. Collaboratory features state-of-the-art technology housed in an architecturally-distinctive, energy-efficient space. Opened in September 201ó, the Regional Collaboratory & Tech Hub offers meeting and tenant spaces, social gathering and special events venues, and shared space.
In the Patio de Leon, where patrons’ alfresco dining experience was being marred by the sight and smell of a typical green-door trash enclosure, restaurant-goers may now enjoy a meal near the necessary equipment without even realizing that it is there. In 2017, a new trash compactor enclosure with an upgraded surrounding for the new trash compactor unit was constructed and capped off by an aluminum trellis, roof, and frame with new PVC gates, as well as a new trellis wall, bench and planing areas to allow the dumpster to blend right into its Patio de Leon surroundings. Total cost for the project was $53,098.58.
Fort Myers Regional Library
The new Fort Myers Regional Library building, located at 2450 First Street on the eastern end of First Street, was a joint venture of the CRA, City of Fort Myers Community Development Department, and Lee County. The CRA worked together with the Community Development Department to provide research and facilitate land acquisition, while Lee County government funded design, permitting, construction and furnishings. The $20 million library is nearly three times the size of its former downtown location, and has become the eastern anchor on First Street recommended by Andrés Duany in the Downtown Master Plan.
Hotel Indigo, a 67-room boutique hotel that opened in March 2009 at Main Street, is an infill project occupying a former vacant lot. Its architecture was designed to fit in so well with the surroundings that it looks like the building has always been there. Furthermore, its lobby interconnects with the historic Post Office Arcade, which contains three restaurants and commercial businesses. The Agency provided a tax increment rebate of 95% in increment revenue for the first two years, and 75% of increment revenue for years three through twenty or until the total amount is $2.5 million, as it was the first new hotel to be constructed Downtown in over 25 years.
Medical/Fire Rescue Utility Task Vehicle
In 2019, the CRA commissioners recognized that the River District’s growing special events require improved first responder access in navigating crowded streets. As a result, they approved the $26,000 purchase of this customized Medical/Fire Rescue Utility Task Vehicle (UTV) to be used by Fire Department personnel during River District special events. Using the new UTV, first responders will have the right-size vehicle necessary to aid several types of emergencies while inside any event. The new vehicle will also give River District shopkeepers maximum exposure to emergency services during scheduled events and road closures. The UTV will be housed, maintained, and operated by the Fort Myers Fire Department. The Fire Department will determine staffing, which may include Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) and/or Paramedics, Hazmat Technicians, and Marine Operators.
Millennial Brewing Company
Millennial Brewing Company became the first business to bridge the gap between the Downtown core and the burgeoning Gardner’s Park area. The brewery was the perfect adaptive reuse of the former Hessler Carpet Company showroom at 1811 Royal Palm Avenue. While brewery founder and experienced hi-tech brewmaster Logan Roberts was preparing for opening, however, an avalanche of unexpected issues above and beyond his contingency fund reared up—the water line for the fire suppression system was on the other side of the street, the interior wood had to be completely replaced due to termites, and extra HVAC work was required. Realizing that assisting Millennial Brewing would have a similar effect as business incubator The Franklin Shops years before, the CRA Board approved a $15,000 tenant improvement grant in June 2016. Millennial Brewing Company has been a favorite family-based gathering spot ever since it opened.
First Street Village/Publix Grocery Store
Without a healthy residential population, it was difficult to attract the retail businesses, restaurants, and entertainment components required to create a revitalized urban center. In the case of the Downtown District, the downtown was faced with the conundrum that it needed residents to attract the retail AND yet it needed a grocery store to attract the residents. The solution: the Fort Myers CRA formed an innovative partnership with one of the high-rise developers and a national real estate firm in order to bring a top-brand, full service grocery store into the area. A five-year rent abatement of $600,000 per year, funded from the Downtown redevelopment area’s tax increment funds, was used to entice Publix to open before the surrounding residential development was completed. Opened in 2008, it is located in what was then known as block one of the three-block First Street Village project. First Street Village includes a new 40,000 square foot Publix grocery store, residential town houses along West First Street and retail liner buildings that surround the grocery store parking lot. A unique feature of the grocery store is that all of the loading docks, dumpsters and electrical service are incorporated into the building design and completely enclosed and roofed over.
Security Camera Funding
The CRA partnered with the City in the purchase and installation of a new state-of-the-art camera system for the core downtown area. The CRA contributed $100,000 toward the purchase of these security cameras.
When the City of Fort Myers planned downtown utility replacement, the CRA proposed an additional $12.5 million Streetscape to enhance streets, sidewalks, furniture & landscaping. This 54-block project believed to be one of the largest projects of its kind in the United States. When removing the old asphalt street, half a million of the original bricks from the 1920s were found, hand-cleaned, and reused on some of the main streets. Carrying on the brick-accented streetscape first seen in the Downtown core, the CRA contributed to the enhanced streetscape elements on Jackson Street by the new fire station, which is in the Midtown section of the Downtown redevelopment area south of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. By matching the brick-lined sidewalk design used north of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in the Downtown core, the revamped Jackson Street not only replaced the tattered roadway, but ensured visual continuity south of the boulevard. Cottage Street has also received the same treatment.
Constructing and managing stormwater run-off facilities to insure water quality standards are met is a costly and challenging endeavor in a green field site—it becomes even more challenging in a developed urban area like downtown Fort Myers. On-site, project-specific detention basins reduce the amount of valuable land that can be developed—and they usually result in a less than friendly pedestrian environment. This was one of the challenges facing the Fort Myers CRA when it was creating a development plan for the underutilized Downtown riverfront. The solution was to build a 1.4 acre shared water detention basin on what was formerly an impervious parking lot. The Basin would improve the quality of the storm water run-off, create additional water frontage, spur in-fill development and create an attractive public gathering place. In addition, the Basin created over 1,200 linear feet of additional waterfront property for hotel, restaurant & retail development, solving the problem of how put a hotel on waterfront property while still allowing public access to the riverfront. While beautiful in design, this sea-walled detention basin also provides stormwater treatment for 15 acres of riverfront area. No new debt was incurred for this $5.7 million project by using creative funding & expense reducing construction techniques. To further enhance its benefits, Environmental Educational Signs were placed strategically around the Basin to explain how water is treated biologically and mechanically, as well the importance of clean water in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
River District Co-Op Advertising Program
Over the years, the CRA has partnered with River District merchants and the Conference & Convention Council to create a co-op television advertising program. Combined funds from the CRA and advertising merchants were used to produce a series of high-profile commercials that played during prime time shows and sporting events.
River District Farmers’ Market
In 1994, the CRA opened the River District Farmers’ Market, a year-round green market. The real financial benefit of the Market is to local vendors who see an average of 1,000 market shoppers each Thursday, as well as nearby merchants & restaurants which many customers visit before and after the Market. Originally, CRA staff managed the market, but in recent years a team of farmers market professionals have taken over the operations.
River District Trolley
The River District Trolley has been operating seasonally since November 2012. Trolley service is a result of the partnership between the CRA, City of Fort Myers, and LeeTran, with funding provided by a combination of developer-funded para-transit fees and a Florida Department of Transportation grant. Free trolley rides entice downtown high-rise residents, local visitors, and tourists to easily access downtown shops, restaurants, and special events.
The Franklin Shops
In 2010, in response to number of large vacant storefronts and the need to attract new retail businesses, the CRA created the Retail Business Incubator Matching Grant Program. The program provides grants of up to $10 per square foot for renovation of buildings that will result in four or more retail spaces. The Franklin Shops was approved for $100,000 for the 10,000 sq. ft. storefront, which will create spaces for more than 40 start-up businesses and generate an estimated 31 jobs.