Affordable housing replacing News-Press building

Reporter: Jolena Esperto Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

Where a popular newspaper was once produced will be replaced by affordable housing. Monday night, the Fort Myers City Council agreed to sell the News-Press building after weeks of debate.

Rather than deciding to sell it to the highest bidder, the city council chose a developer with a vision to build housing average people could afford.

Another bidder hoped to turn the old building into luxury condos and everything that goes with them.

Affordable housing in downtown Fort Myers is worth about $6.5 million.

“Some people may say we’re stupid and we don’t make the numbers work. We’ll find a way. We’ll figure it out,” said Councilwoman Darla Bonk.

affordable housing
Proposal accepted by city council. CREDIT: FORT MYERS CITY COUNCIL

The city council agreed to sell the building to Tre Bel Housing for $11 million because that company’s plan includes rent-restricted housing for police officers, firefighters, nurses and teachers.

That price tag is $6.5 million less than another developer was willing to pay for the property on MLK Boulevard, near Fowler Street. This proposal wanted to turn the lot into a high-rise complex with restaurants, retail and business space.

“I need police officers, I need teachers, I need nurses, I need just general people to be able to afford to work here,” said Councilwoman Bonk, “and I can’t ask them to come and work in the city of Fort Myers and not be able to provide them a place to live, so for that reason, whatever the opinions of the city is, I will be able to sleep at night.”

Only Councilman Liston Bouchette and Mayor Kevin Anderson voted against taking less money.

“And I’ll just be honest with you, I don’t want no big luxury condominiums to go there, that the people that I serve can’t even afford to go in there and do anything, they can’t even walk through the gate,” said Teresa Watkins.

Many people WINK News spoke with were happy there will be more affordable housing in the area. While those upset about the idea said they didn’t want housing in the area at all.

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