Earlier this week, Tom Torgerson responded to an inquiry by a member of our local media by sending a letter to every member of the Town Council of Fort Myers Beach where he announced his plans to scrap the proposed Grand Resorts development and return at some point with new plans for the properties he owns in the downtown district – plans that will likely not include Crescent Beach Park or the rerouting of Estero Boulevard.
When contacted, Torgerson declined to comment further to ‘any members of the media’ saying his letter accurately sums up his position as of right now. That letter, in its entirety, is as follows:
“John (Dammerman, Torgerson’s investment partner) and I will not come forward with an application representative of our last concept, and we do not have a timeline for developing a new concept. However, we remain hopeful that a new concept will ultimately be supported by the Town, while being financially viable for us. There are significant challenges with developing a new concept, it will take some time to do so.”
“Whatever we do ultimately put forth most likely will not involve Crescent Beach Park, nor rerouting of Estero Boulevard, nor include a conference center. We do feel that what the downtown core district needs to enhance its vitality are lodging units versus more retail, restaurants, bars and t-shirt shops. High quality lodging units that have strong national/international marketing infrastructure will improve business for this core district year round and especially out-of-season when they most need it. Lodging units also represent a type of use that is least impactful to traffic. We will likely compliment the lodging usage with some public parking and scaled back onsite food and beverage.”
“We will also likely propose something that can be enhanced by the Coastal Protection System but isn’t dependent upon it. We may likely put forward the CPS for the Town and County’s consideration as a means to save the downtown core district’s pedestrian grade level desires so consistently stated in the Comp Plan. The public can decide if it is worthy or not to implement. We have spent around $250,000 solely towards developing the CPS and will likely donate that information for public consideration. We have minimal regrets as we reflect back upon the previous redevelopment concept and public process. We actually envision that the future process will benefit tremendously from our having engaged public input in the past six months.”
“In the end, we have a strong desire to help unite the community during the future process – avoiding divisiveness!”
We spoke with Mayor Dennis Boback and Council member Anita Cereceda to get their reactions to the announcement.
“At this point, it appears that he (Torgerson) has clearly heard that his vision is not that of the Town’s,” Boback said. “He had a beautiful project, but Fort Myers Beach is just not the place for the size and scope of it. And, since he says he’s taken Crescent Beach Park off the table I suspect that he heard something negative from Lee County about acquiring it as that is a county park. As far as his future plans, it’s really hard to predict but I’m sure that we can help him come up with something that’s financially viable for him and good for both him and the Town.”
Cereceda said her biggest concern is that the Town may have lost the opportunity to realign Estero to help the town’s traffic problem.
“We’ve been talking about that for 20 years – I hope we haven’t lost that though I suspect we have,” she said. “I’m just hopeful that whatever it is that he eventually brings to us that we – as a community – have the wherewithal to have a conversation about the future of our downtown. The whole town – not just the businesses and residents of that area – needs to have that discussion. This opportunity we have with Tom is a unique one.”
Keri Hendry Weeg