This past week I attended the joint Fort Myers Beach Town Council and Lee County Commission workshop to hear a bold proposal by developer Tom Torgerson that was dubbed an opportunity of a lifetime at Fort Myers Beach.
After viewing the presentation I would concur that is indeed true. There were some things that I liked and a few things I didn’t like. I still have a lot of questions. The presentation was an overview. It was not complete.
I did not see renderings of Crescent Beach. It looks like some open space remains but perhaps not in its current form. Like Commissioner Mann, I wonder how adding 700 hotel rooms would reduce trips on the road.
The four new hotels will be a Holiday Inn Resort at the South end of the property. Next to that will be the Marriott AC property, followed by the Hilton Resort which will have a Hampton Inn inside the Hilton Resort. The parking garage will connect to the Hilton Resort. The Holiday Inn Resort will hold 200 rooms, while the Hampton Inn would hold 85 rooms and the Hilton Resort 76 units. I couldn’t write fast enough to get the Marriott number. All told I’ve read we’re looking at about 476 new rooms at the beach.
I can see how the new traffic flow would be a big boost to traffic snarls at the beach. Traffic impacts quality of life and improvements there would go a long way to allowing me to make compromises, but we need more facts.
Last year I took a road trip to Siesta Key in Sarasota. What I didn’t like was that the Gulf views were obscured by businesses and hotels. I fear that Fort Myers Beach will go the same route. I hate to lose that beautiful beach access.
Oh, the developers have opened up access points to the beach. I’m talking about the views. It will look more like a downtown shopping district in front of these hotels and businesses until you go in back on the boardwalk.
I’d like to see a virtual reality rendering of what this all looks like. I’d like to see the access to the beach and see how closed off it really is.
I also worry that the trend would continue further down the beach and we’d add more high-rise hotels, further blocking beach view access. If we do this project, is there a way to make it stop? This is a CPD (Commercial Planned Development). Is there a way to restrict further CPD’s?
For the most part, driving over the big bridge would afford similar views to what we have now. It’s when you’re at street level that you begin to feel like you’re boxed in. It almost feels like First Street Village in Downtown Fort Myers. There are arches in the renderings that looks like it could open up to beach views at street level. And of course, there is the boardwalk. I just want to make sure there is enough open space to not feel boxed in and lose that beach feel. As opposed to downtown, the beach is the draw, not the businesses.
There are parking benefits. I’m not sure I like valet parking versus self parking. If Lee County residents are going to give up so much, I’d like to see residents be able to buy parking passes like Collier County does. This may bust their revenue budget, but everything is a negotiation at this point. The developers know there will be some give and take.
I can see benefits to traffic flow, storm water improvements, parking, and tax revenues. There are a lot of plusses to consider. It’s just that we’re being asked to trade-off and lose that small town feel and some views for the sake of development.
Traffic flow would benefit in a number of ways. Pedestrians would not be crossing Estero Blvd at choke points anymore. They’d be using the elevated walkways. Left turns from Estero onto side streets would also be done away with. Traffic would also be diverted away with the use of the round-about and behind the garage area. The traffic plan actually does look like a well thought out plan.
Like I said, it’s complicated, and it is a opportunity of a lifetime at Fort Myers Beach. Nobody knows how much they’re asking the state and county to contribute. They make mention of tax revenues exceeding what is needed. That is code for asking for tax dollars, and of course some land swaps. They propose giving the county the parking garage in exchange for Seafarer’s Village Property, Crescent Beach, and some right of ways.
If Lee County is going to be doing some land swaps, perhaps there is an opportunity to acquire more land down the beach adjacent to one of the parks. This way the County could expand an existing park more like Lynn Hall Memorial Park but down the beach. Then locals would have a quiet place with parking if they wanted to escape all the hustle and bustle of the new project.
It will be interesting to see what the Town of Fort Myers Beach thinks as well as Lee County residents. I see some positives, and if I were in charge I’d be willing to let go of a few tings in return for some assurances on others. Both ways it’s a quality of life issue, and we need to make sure we get this right.
Plans are ambitious. They would like to start sometime between October- December 2106. They would need FEMA approval for the seawall change which they believe they could get within about 4 months from application. That seems pretty fast for FEMA.
Good luck to the Town of Fort Myers Beach and Lee County. We’ve got some work to do. To search the Fort Myers Beach or Lee County MLS, visit www.LeeCountyOnline.com
What are your thoughts on the Fort Myers Beach proposal? Is it a opportunity of a lifetime at Fort Myers Beach or a bad idea that will destroy the way of life as we know it?
More renderings below: