The proposed Downtown Development Concept presented this week is certainly a game changer. Here are some initial impressions.
- I like the fact that the Old Helmrich plaza gets cleaned up. This is long overdue. I like the idea of moving Estero Blvd if it helps traffic flow and the idea of a flood barrier to help with storm surge may be a good idea if it does not impact those not participating and does not act as a barrier to beach access. More parking is fine- except between employees, guests and the commercial users- are we sure the Garage offers additional parking?
- I don’t think actual traffic flow will improve. The new proposed intensity is huge and will be its own traffic generator. The proposed realignment will be different, but the traffic chaos will continue. Access to the new hotels alone will be a major impact on Estero Blvd Traffic Flow.
- The proposed 550 rooms is the equivalent of five Diamond Heads or one South Seas plantation plus the additional commercial is substantial. Good for Lee County tourism perhaps, but this intensity at the base of the primary access to the island is just not a good idea or even necessary. Why even consider it?
- Let’s all be honest- it just does not fit under our own comprehensive land use plan. Height, density, parking, flood plain and all kinds of street ROW alignments are needed. Why go here?
- The Crescent Beach Park are community resources and there is no compelling reason these impossible to replace commons should be compromised to accommodate any unwanted private development.
- Parks without easily accessed parking are destined for low use. It is time to incorporate ready parking access for these resources. Even a modest amount is good- particularly for off-season access.
- Extending ground level commercial along an extended Times Square is one use, but another would be a central Town Plaza at Crescent Park- with a low impact plan that provides public space for festivals/music and gathering. Interesting central plazas have long been great focal points to define community character.
- It seems to me, the developer has three good opportunities to use his property without proposing a Disneyland sized concept. These alternatives would be more of a village concept with three new hotels – one at the Mermaid Block, One at the Pierview/Crab site and one at the plaza. Less is more and it would improve the downtown Core without reinventing our island. Each of these could be a more modest scale- like Edison Beach House or the Lighthouse Resorts.
- While this is a good opportunity to improve the Beach and Downtown core, the actual development parcels owned by the developer are relatively modest in size and highly constrained due to the beach/road and floodplain rules- they need cooperation and concessions to use public lands and increase their intensity.
- The good concepts of this plan are not all dependent on each other. If a flood barrior is a good idea, then Lee County, the Town and private investment can make it happen without requiring intensity where it does not fit. If Estero Blvd realignment is a good idea- then this can be pursued including condemnation.
- Finally, the scale of the parking garage and the new hotels is simply uninteresting. The streetscape /pedestrian plaza is urban in concept and best for Miami or a downtown core and not a Beach Town in SW Florida. No parking at the actual hotel is logistically complicated. We can do better.
- Flood Insurance benefits should be carefully looked at- what and who actually benefits and to what extent.
Let’s take a hard look at real options and develop a better plan. If it takes some time – so be it.
Fort Myers Beach