Fort Myers City Council hoping to speed up the midtown redevelopment project

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:
Midtown Fort Myers (Credit: WINK News)

A plan more than a decade in the making could finally take a new step forward. Fort Myers city leaders have been working on a way to give the community a new place to live, work and play. 250 acres from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Edison Avenue, and US-41 to Fowler Street.

Redeveloping midtown Fort Myers has been a topic of conversation for years and now this new city council wants to do something.

“All this time we’ve had a lot of planning and a lot of conversation and now is the time we can actually bring that plan to life,” said City of Fort Myers Spokeswoman Liz Bello Matthews.

It is a complex project. Yes, they want new buildings to be built, but can the sewage and drainage support new construction? They want a pedestrian connector between midtown and downtown but how and where?

“Do we redirect that SR-82 traffic down Fowler and over Edison, you know some way to avoid midtown?” asked a council member during Monday’s meeting.

The idea is to give the Fort Myers community a new area to live, work and enjoy.

First, city leaders need to settle on a vision. Second, they need to decide how to get it done. “Then the third step is the finance. Can we afford it?” said Councilman Liston Bouchette.

Bouchette said council members know what they don’t want. They don’t want downtown Miami, but they want you to think of European cities. Revamping the old to make it feel new.

“It’s good and bad. It’s a blank canvas but someone’s got to jump and move, you got to offer some incentive or some motivation otherwise all-around Publix and McGregor is going to continue to populate in giant towers,” said Bouchette.

Incentives could come in the form of allowing mixed-use development.

The good thing about this blank canvas is that the city owns about 50% of the land in the midtown area. Like the City of Palms Park and the old News-Press location.

The city has lots of ideas and strategies for the project, like shutting down a street permanently and turning it into a pedestrian connector between downtown and midtown.

The city council says now is the time to make decisions. The good thing is that the city owns about 50% of the land in the midtown area like the City of Palms Park and the old News-Press location.

“We want to know what look and feel they would like to see what area they would like to see covered what really should be the path moving forward for the midtown area. How is it going to be branded what kind of locations would we like there would it be mixed-use or highly dense all of that needs to be revisited because it hasn’t been seen or talked about in three years,” said Matthews.

The plan had not been discussed in three years because there was a pandemic and before that, it was a different council.

The city manager said they are considering requesting proposals for the City of Palms Park. He has a meeting in two weeks with a company that runs sports complexes. The city still wants to get input from business owners and people living there.

Their hope is to hire a firm to do the updated designs in the next few months.

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