City of Fort Myers hopes to cash in on selling former News-Press building it purchased in 2019

Reporter: Peter Fleischer
City of Fort Myers News-press Building
Former News-Press building

A project that’s already cost taxpayers millions of dollars is officially getting scrapped, but the next step could actually bring in more money for the City of Fort Myers.

The City bought the building at the southwest corner of Fowler Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd back in 2019. Now, they’re putting it back on the market.

The main reason is, with the way the real estate market has changed over the last few years, the City believes it can make money and repurpose the building to better serve the community.

Ward 4 City Councilman Linston Bochette asked, “What is the highest and best use for each piece of property?” adding, “The commercial interest in this is obviously profitable.”

The City bought the property for about $9 million three years ago and has spent nearly $365 thousand on an architecture firm since then to come up with plans to transform the site into a new police headquarters.

But because of how valuable a potential commercial project could be, Councilman Fred Burson believes now is the time to cash in. “I do believe we would make money on it … I think it will have been a good investment for the amount of time that we have owned it.”

Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson agrees, saying, “We stand to make a fairly good profit on that property. That’s a valuable piece of land.”

The City Council is set to hear about selling the site at its next meeting on May 2.

A key part of the equation is that the site will be sold “As is” meaning the City won’t foot any more costs.

Bochette said, “Both builders and sellers in this environment are happy with the ‘as is’. They can scrape and do whatever they want, they’re not going to have to adapt or amend. And the City doesn’t have to prepare it for sale.”

The City will hold a “request for proposals,” essentially an open bidding process to sort through potential buyers.

It gives the City options for how they want to use the property. A development that some believe is essential in re-imagining the area.

“There’s no food services, there are no pharmacies, there are no commercial outlets, it’s really wide open,” Bochette explained. “The developer who gets this job is going to have a blank canvas.”

Anderson also said the area is “a food desert. So this will bring a grocery store hopefully closer to Dunbar. I think there will be residential units and some other retail and commercial space.”

So, while it doesn’t look like this will be the new police headquarters, City leaders assured taking care of FMPD is still a priority.

They’ll immediately begin evaluating new sites that fit into the City’s budget.

The City believes the site could sell quickly and hope to have a deal done in the next few months.

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