High hopes for McCollum Hall restoration project

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McCollum Hall. Credit: WINK News

Fort Myers city leaders are one step closer to getting approval for redevelopers to come in and rejuvenate McCollum Hall

The City of Fort Myers has already declared McCollum Hall a local historic landmark and soon it will be on the National Registry of Historic Places. It used to be the centerpiece of music and community on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and city leaders are sure it can return to being a place that brought people together.

Gerri Ware, a community member who also sits on the Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency’s advisory board, says that as a teenager she used to love hearing the music playing in the hall from outside. Performers like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and B.B King performed at McCollum Hall during the 1930s and 40s, and those who remember the impact it’s had on the Black community hope a developer will come in and once again make it the place to be in Lee County.

“I want our children to really reap the benefits of McCollum Hall when, once again, we can have events here of the same nature that we had back during the day,” Ware said.

Rendering by New Developer for McCollum Hall: Goshen + Cornerstone, LLC (Credit: Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA))

“McCollum Hall was this vibrant place in the community that provided entertainment, it provided place, a place for people to come together; it had businesses, it supported this community,” said Michele Hylton-Terry, executive director of the Fort Myers CRA. “We’ve said that we want it to be the economic catalyst to jump-start redevelopment along the corridor.”

Hylton-Terry and others hope the restoration will help jump-start commercial activity on both sides of MLK Boulevard. The two last developers who got involved didn’t have the money to restore the place, but there’s real hope the restoration will finally happen.

“Each time, I’m very dismayed when it falls through, but I live on hope… I live on hope,” Ware said. “I’m still looking for it to jump-start commercial activity on both sides of MLK to see it restored with businesses. That’s my dream.”

CRA officials hope to get approval from city leaders at the end of March to receive proposals from developers to restore the hall. Since money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development was used to help restore the roof, it’s required that the hall is also put to community use.

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