Fort Myers working to bring University of Florida satellite campus to midtown

Reporter: Zach Oliveri Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

The City of Fort Myers wants to bring a major university to the city. The University of Florida has put building a satellite campus in West Palm Beach on hold, so now Fort Myers is courting them for their midtown project near the City of Palms Park.

Councilmember Liston Bochette thinks Fort Myers is the right choice because of the alumni base that will bring a lot of support and serve as a missing piece to complement the community’s educational offerings. Most of all, he thinks it will help rejuvenate midtown.

Fans don’t flock to the City of Palms Park like they used to when the Red Sox played there.

“Kind of a dead area. And you know you drive by, you really don’t see too much to do,” said Bill Byers, a snowbird from Ohio.

The City of Fort Myers has an idea of transforming 47 acres of land to bring a UF satellite campus to midtown.

“A university campus brings young people in. Brings housing needs in. Shops, stores it’s a captured audience. It also brings a culture and a spirit to the city, which we’re moving in that direction very nicely,” said Bochette.

This push comes after UF had issues in Palm Beach. With those talks paused, Councilmember Bochette sees an opportunity to put Fort Myers on UF’s radar.

“We need an anchor. And the best anchors are sports complexes, opera centers, symphony halls, universities, or medical centers. So we might be able to combine all of these into 47 acres that belong to the city, which would be quite a campus. Not only can we go horizontal, but we can go vertical. So we could make it fit exactly what they want,” Bochette said.

Steven Maisch has lived in Fort Myers for decades. He’s seen the growth and says the idea of UF coming in has its positives. “For people that want to live off campus, you know it might create opportunities there. Of course, the faculty. And you’d be bringing a good thing into the area, not just a structure for the sake of. You know it would add its own merit.”

WINK News spoke to Ray Rodrigues, the chancellor of the state’s university system, on Friday. He said it was the first he’s heard of it.

It’s still too early to see what u-f would put here. Councilmember Bochette said it’s up to them.

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