Demolition set for Fort Myers building amid pleas from preservation commission

Reporter: Sydney Persing Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News.

A building with hundreds of years of local history is set to be torn down. But those who pay close mind to the preservation of the past in Fort Myers are fighting to save some semblance of a building’s foundation from ultimate destruction.

The City of Fort Myers received a letter Monday from City of Fort Myers Historic Preservation Commission demanding a delay for the demolition of the former Ida’s Bon Appetitery downtown.

“The fact that it’s still straight, and it still follows its lines, tells you a little bit about the structure and the way they built things,” Raimond Aulen said.

When Aulen looks at the old building at 2208 First Street in downtown Fort Myers, he sees history. The building has been part of the landscape for more than 100 years.

“A lot of the economy here banks on the historic structures and the historic buildings,” Aulen said. “And the whole environment and atmosphere.”

The historic preservation commission is also thinking about the upcoming season, and it said it doesn’t want the appearance of the building to be destroyed during that time.

“My concern is that we’re just going to have this big vacant piece of property downtown Fort Myers in the middle of our season,” Aulen said. “It’s going to become an eyesore. And then the worst part is it may never be rebuilt.”

Gina Sabiston, chairwoman of the historic preservation commission, submitted the letter to the city. She said they had met with the owner of the building in 2017 and approved terms about a future demolition, so long as it complied with certain conditions for reconstruction. But the commission claims the city has seemingly bypassed any agreement there might have been with its own plans for the structure.

“We approved that with the condition that prior to demolition a permit would be issued, and construction would begin within six months,” Sabiston said. “And it is my understanding from city staff that a building permit has not been issued on this.”

Plans were never made, and the demolition of the building nears. Still, not all business owners downtown are sad to see the old structure disappear.

“It’s a mess, and it’s really time for it to go,” Mollie Turner told WINK News. “I don’t remember when it was occupied last to be honest with you.”

The building on First Street has severe damages inside, including termites.

The spokesperson for the historic preservation commission said she asked to address city council at a special meeting this evening, but the city manager denied the request. The demolition is slated to begin around 10 p.m. Tuesday and completed by Wednesday morning.

Regardless of current damages and other issues, Aulen hopes the city will reconsider current plans.

“All the way from the brick streets, which are the original brick streets to the buildings that are standing here,” Aulen said.

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