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Debate over high-rise tower proposed for downtown Fort Myers

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A 131-foot high-rise tower has been proposed for downtown Fort Myers and is being considered by the City Council, but some neighbors are worried it may detract from the area’s historic charm.

Jim Burch, president of Heads Up LLC, is the man who wants to bring the high-rise attraction to Southwest Florida.

“It’s not Orlando, it’s not Miami, it’s not Las Vegas,” Burch said.

But he believes people living in or visiting Fort Myers will come to see it, especially if he puts it near the Luminary Hotel.

Irene Kulbacki, a tourist from Buffalo, New York, disagrees.

“It would change the vibe,” Kulbacki said.

Kulbacki’s friend Nancy Humphrey is the wife of former Fort Myers Mayor Jim Humphrey. The Humphreys debated the idea of the high-rise attraction Monday night.

“He said he thought that would be a good idea; anything of interest to draw people is a great thing,” Nancy Humphrey said.

Burch is confident he can make his digital renderings a reality, but he must be patient. The Fort Myers City Council tabled the discussion when it learned a feasibility study hadn’t been done.

“We just want the verification,” said Councilman Fred Burson. “And, if we allow you to use any property, that it won’t go belly up in three years, five years, six years. We want something that’s sustainable.”

Councilman Liston Bochette called it a “nice proposal—real quality,” but he is not ready to sign off on the project.

“We need the security of an outside professional saying that ‘we’ve reviewed everything, like your auditor, like your CPA, to say your books are in order,'” Bochette said. “So, those are essential steps to guarantee the taxpayers’ monies aren’t wasted.”

It isn’t exactly what Burch wanted to hear. He says his attraction will bring a fresh new vibe to the area.

“There’s a lot of myriad things down here—restaurants, shops, festivals—but there’s nothing kind of to do once you’re finished with that.”

For Bochette and the taxpayers he says he’s talked to, that’s the problem..

“Most of the input I got, whether it was by email or text or telephone calls, was not supportive, mainly because of the historic character of downtown,” Bochette said. “It’s a charming place people like to come to, and they’re not really against the tower, just against the location.”