1, 2, 3 tries at downtown Fort Myers hotel may end 10-year search

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FORT MYERS, Fla. – Will the third time be a charm? After two failed attempts at getting a developer to erect a hotel in downtown Fort Myers, city leaders remain hopeful.

It has taken 10 years, but an elite brand of the Marriott Hotel could be introduced to a lot near the Harborside Event Center on Monroe Street after a team of city consultants chose Tampa-based Mainsail Lodging & Development as the best of three bidders.

Joe Collier of Mainsail said his company has strong ties, cash and the expertise to deliver a hotel that will meet the city’s expectations and charge an average room rate of $175.

The property and development firm will have to give the city a nonrefundable $500,000 security deposit to build the hotel, which will be styled similarly to the Epicurean in Tampa.

Collier said the deposit should address some concerns.

“We wouldn’t be dropping off a half-million dollar deposit check if we didn’t think we couldn’t get it done,” he said.

Not all council members were fans of the company. Some spoke in favor of the only local bidder, the Pittman Group. The company has contributed $250,000 to the restoration of McCollum Hall, which was built in the Dunbar community in 1938 by a black entrepreneur and was central to live entertainment.

In addition to that project, the Pittman group is working to rehabilitate an old hotel into senior apartments. Real estate agent Paige Rausch said she prefers the local group.

“I trust those people. I’ve seen their work. I know who they are,” she said.

But in a final vote, Mainsail Lodging & Development won the bid with a 5-2 vote.

A groundbreaking for the new hotel could occur next year.

The city flirted with ideas of a downtown Sheraton Hotel but developer Steve Goodman floundered on making any substantial payments. Nine years earlier, the same project was approved for developer WCI.

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