Islanders who have been waiting for their chance to voice their opinion on a proposed downtown redevelopment project or who were unable to attend the previous two meetings held by Grand Resorts FMB’s Tom Torgerson will have another chance this coming Thursday, January 14th at Bay Oaks Recreation Center at 5:30pm.
For our seasonal residents and visitors just arriving, our little community has been in an uproar since the end of November, when Torgerson first revealed his preliminary concept for the properties Grand Resorts FMB (Torgerson is CEO) purchased last year in the downtown area. The redevelopment project footprint includes the area from the Mermaid Lounge to the parking lot next to the Sunset Beach Grille, plus Helmerich Plaza, the old Seafarer’s location and a few other properties.
The conceptual plans shown to date include four hotels with 562 rooms, a 1500-space, 5-story parking garage at Helmerich, nine projected restaurants forecast plus retail spaces, a fitness center and a spa, conference center and parking ramp – all projected to create 500 new jobs. Along the beachfront, a seawall is planned with a boardwalk that will stretch for almost a ½ mile from the Mermaid to Lynn Hall Park, with ten beach access points and public restrooms along it. Developers expect that the seawall would provide flood protection and allow for building at ground level behind it.
In addition, the plans would re-route Estero Boulevard to eliminate the traffic light and create a roundabout at the foot of the Matanzas Bridge. That, plus a ‘fast ramp’ into the parking garage designed to funnel daytrippers off of Estero Boulevard, is designed to help with the island’s legendary traffic problem.
The plan includes property that Grand Resorts FMB now owns, plus land that the Town owns (Canal Street access) and land that Lee County owns (Seafarer’s Mall and Crescent Beach Family Park).
All of this is still in the conceptual stage only. No permits have been applied for, no land has been sold by either the Town or the County and no contracts have been signed.
Torgerson’s first architectural renderings of what this may all look like met with some strong opposition at the first Fort Myers Beach meeting held on December 14th, where islanders overflowed Chapel By the Sea’s meeting hall. Most of those we spoke to, however, were not opposed to the concept – just the scale. They asked Torgerson to tone it down, and he told Council on Monday that he and his team have altered their plans and would reveal new renderings this Thursday.
A summary of the Grand Resorts FMB conceptual plan can be found at grandresortsfmb.com.
Keri Hendry Weeg