Since developer Tom Torgerson stepped back from his Grand Resorts FMB plan about a month ago, he’s been working with his team on a major revision of that plan, something he’s calling Times Square Resorts.
With a revised concept in mind, he’s brought it to two very different focus groups looking for feedback. One of those groups met last Wednesday. That group included a number of people who had expressed reservations or outright opposition to the Grand Resorts plan first introduced in November 2015. Seven members of the TPI team were present to answer questions. Meeting for almost three hours, a variety of topics were discussed. John Gucciardo, former Deputy Town Manager of Fort Myers Beach from 1996-2006 and most recently Assistant City Manager of Bonita Springs prior to his recent retirement, was also present. He is now serving as a consultant for Torgerson and the Times Square Resorts Project.
On Friday morning, Torgerson and his team met with another focus group for nearly three hours, this one composed of Island business owners. (Disclosure: Sand Paper Publisher Bob Layfield attended as an Island business owner.)
While Torgerson told both groups that the new proposal is still early in development, there are some things they do know at this point.
The new concept is a lot smaller. Overall the Times Square Resorts project is only about 40% of the size of the Grand Resorts plan. It will not include Crescent Beach Family Park or the Coastal Protection System and boardwalk and is not dependent on any Estero Boulevard road changes. There is no multi-story pubic parking structure and much of the retail space in the first plan is gone.
At this point the concept includes only two hotels, one Gulf-side and one on the Helmerich Plaza site on the other side of Estero Blvd. The Gulf-front hotel property would extend from the Mermaid to the Pierview Hotel. Torgerson’s team continues to work on the feasibility of the project, with a focus on the number of hotel rooms necessary to make the project make sense financially.
Both focus groups got a look at a few examples of conceptual architecture and were asked for their input on the right “feel” for the Fort Myers Beach community. Both groups were also asked for their input on several areas of potential public benefit, including public parking, pedestrian causeways and commercial space.
Torgerson and his team spoke at length on the impact of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regulations and Fort Myers Beach Comprehensive Plan compliance in the downtown location. Without the CPS, the new plan has all buildings elevated to comply with FEMA regulations. That translates into about 17 feet of elevation on the Gulf-front location.
Torgerson was very open with both groups about lessons learned from the Grand Resorts plan and the four public presentations of various aspects of that plan. Gucciardo said that the team plans to utilize the input from the focus groups to improve the plans.
“We are just trying to gather input and use it to develop a plan that works — one that everyone can be more comfortable with,” said Gucciardo.