The City of Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency was recently honored with the Outstanding New Building Project award for the project, the Luminary Hotel & Co., in the 2021 Florida Redevelopment Association (FRA) Awards.
The FRA Awards are presented each year at the association’s annual conference and recognize outstanding achievement in a variety of categories, from annual reports to cultural enhancement. The entries are examined for effectiveness and completeness – including the narrative, supplemental material and compliance with the submittal instructions. Judges are selected by FRA and represent various organizations and sectors from around the state.
“We’re immensely honored and grateful to have received this award,” Executive Director, Fort Myers CRA, Michele Hylton-Terry said. “Luminary checks off several action steps in Downtown’s Redevelopment Plan and turns the tax increment rebate into a loan by repaying the principal and interest during the eighth year of hotel operation.”
Rising from a former parking lot between the Downtown Basin and renovated event center, Hylton-Terry says Luminary is the keystone in reviving convention capabilities to the heart of Fort Myers and creating a desirable waterfront dining and activity hub. The complex also reuses the under-engaged City Pier building.
The opening of the Luminary, as part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, in September 2020, was the culmination of an almost decade-long process that began in 2011 when the Fort Myers City Council adopted a downtown redevelopment master plan that included a hotel next to the convention center, an amphitheater, restaurants, and retail establishments on the riverfront.
The 12-story, 243-room Luminary rises above the Caloosahatchee River at 2200 Edwards Drive. The $92 million hotel includes a rooftop lounge, two restaurants, a coffee shop, and various meeting rooms. The Luminary also operates the Caloosa Sound Convention Center adjacent to the hotel property. Caloosa Sound is the rebranded, reimagined former Harborside Event Center, which has reopened after a two-year closure. The new 40,000 square foot center, united with the hotel, creates a flexible space capable of hosting a wide variety of events, including large conventions. The project addresses key elements of the city’s Downtown Riverfront Plan.
For the first time, CRA funding for a Fort Myers project is a loan, not a grant. The project was approved for a $2.6 million tax increment rebate-loan in December 2017. The developer will pay back the total rebate to the CRA with interest beginning in the eighth year of hotel operation.
Luminary Hotel & Co. also placed Oxbow Restaurant and Oxbow Retail & Rentals in the City Pier building, activating an underused City facility through adaptive reuse as well adding dockside dining and shopping for boaters, locals, and visitors.
The project has also boosted the local economy. According to Luminary Hotel & Co. General Manager Bob Megazzini, the project has brought jobs both pre- and post-construction. More than 70 percent of the hotel’s first new hires were from Fort Myers.
The Luminary Hotel & Co. added several dining and relaxation options, including The Beacon Social Drinkery, Silver King Ocean Brasserie, Dean Street Coffee Roastery & Retail, Ella Mae’s Diner, and the Oxbow Bar & Grill and Oxbow Retail & Rentals.
Private sector and non-profit partners of the project include Mainsail Development & Lodging: Mainsail Development International, LLC; Mainsail Fort Myers LLP and the City of Fort Myers.
The FRA Award Dinner was held Thursday, October 28, 2021 at Caloosa Sound Convention Center at the Luminary Hotel in downtown Fort Myers.
CRAs exist to promote the improvement of downtowns and other urban areas through redevelopment. These organizations are managed by a five-to-seven member board created by and distinct from the local government. CRAs have certain powers that the cities or counties themselves may not have, including establishing tax increment financing and leveraging public funds with private dollars.