Amusement tower proposed for downtown Fort Myers

Author: Katiuska Carrillo, Gulfshore Business
Published: Updated:

Heads Up! LLC proposed an amusement tower on city-owned property at the corner of Hendry Street and Edwards Drive in downtown Fort Myers.  

The tower was brought forward as an item for consideration by City Council member Fred Burson on Monday, which followed last week’s presentation given by the developer to the city’s economic advisory board. 

Standing at 131 feet, the proposed tower seats 16 people for five- or 10-minute rides all the way to the top. Passengers can enjoy drinks while experiencing unique views of downtown and its waterfront. 

The aerobar, along with other versions of the product, are manufactured by Paris-based company Aerophile. Aerophile’s helium balloon in Disney Springs ascends 400 feet into the air during a tethered 8-minute balloon ride experience. 

“Each aerobar is able to be customized for each location and I believe that we have attempted to make a customization for Fort Myers,” said James Burch, president of Heads Up! LLC. “It’s an excellent place. It’s not Orlando, it’s not Miami, it’s not Las Vegas, and it doesn’t want to be and I hope that I can contribute to making it better.” 

The tower will be lit and able to change color depending on seasons or celebrations, but will not shine into neighboring residences or surrounding areas, Burch said.

“I foresee it as something whereby it would be a focal point for all the myriad of things that are happening downtown,” he said. 

The proposed site is the triangular portion of land between the Luminary Hotel and Oxbow Bar & Grill restaurant. However, since the land is in the Community Redevelopment Agency district, the city must seek solicitations for the property before moving forward with any proposed project. 

“The idea is, is this the catalyst that starts that process to motivate the city to start the [Request  for Proposal] process in which we would probably get multiple [responses],” City Manager Marty Lawing said. 

The property is also listed as one of the potential demised premises in the city’s recent Suntex redevelopment agreement for the Fort Myers Yacht Basin. Once the city issues a Request for Proposal, any developer can submit proposals. From there, the city can either move forward with negotiations depending on ranking or deny them altogether. 

The tower would be built to withstand 200 mph winds. With any winds above 40 mph or lightning within 20 miles, operation of the ride stops. Additionally, if winds are above 70 mph, the balloon is deflated.  

An estimated 15 to 20 jobs will come with the proposed project, Burch said. The cost to build the project is $4 million, funded by the developer.  

The proposal was met with hesitation from council members and opposition from some residents. 

“I’ve seen a lot of projects come and go and I’m very hopeful that this is going to be one of those projects that goes,” resident Gina Sabiston said. “As you consider this proposal before you, I ask you to consider what do you want for your grandchildren for this community. I for one would not want my grandchildren, nieces and nephews to grow up in a Orlando- or Myrtle Beach-type area.” 

The sentiment of keeping Fort Myers’ unique charm was echoed by resident Connie Bennett Martin. 

“We need to be proud of who we are as a city, what we have to offer and quit trying to change to be something new and shiny and flashy,” Martin said. “We need to be who we’ve been for the past several 100 years.” 

Council voted 5-2 to table the item. 

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