Fort Myers reconsidering police department’s move to former News-Press building

Reporter: Peter Fleischer
Published: Updated:
Former News-Press building (CREDIT: WINK News)

After years of discussing the new location for the Fort Myers Police Department, there seems to be less clarity than ever before.

The City of Fort Myers purchased the former News-Press building in 2019 with plans to turn it into a new space for the police station.

It paid $9 million for the building at the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Fowler Street.

But now, the city is fielding an offer so good, they can’t refuse.

It might force them to put the police headquarters somewhere else.

The estimated cost of converting the site has more than doubled to as much as $80 million and the value of downtown Fort Myers real estate continues to skyrocket.

“There’s been a lot of interest shown in the property by developers,” said Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson. “It’s a prime piece of property.”

City Council member Liston Bochette is among the elected officials who wants to evaluate every option even if it means finding a new location for the police department.

They’re considering multiple options, the Lee Health location off 41, a site off Michigan Avenue and expanding their current offices.

“We’ve simply evolved. I wouldn’t say outgrown, I’ll say evolved. The highest and best use of that property is looking like serving the communities,” Bochette said.

Anderson agrees.

“I’d rather see us develop it and have a tax-paying project on the property then to put a city building there that doesn’t generate any taxes,” Anderson said.

Council members have had numerous discussions about other sites but financial aid is a factor.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has already awarded Fort Myers $30 million in federal grants.

The city said it is researching exactly what areas that money can be invested in and whether there’s any wiggle room.

“I’m sure we can find a suitable site. It might not seem as attractive as Fowler and MLK but I’m confident we can find a site that will work well for the police department,” Anderson said.

Bochette said the police department will be taken care of.

“And hopefully we can activate this property in the best financial interests of the citizens,” he added.

Anderson said the city has discussed at least two to three offers on the location. They hope to make a decision in the next 60 days.

If they decided on a different location, the planning process would start over and who knows what those costs would look like.

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