City Council sacrifices $6M for old News-Press building to go with affordable housing proposal

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

The City of Fort Myers is leaving more than $6 million on the table in connection to the old News-Press building on MLK Boulevard, near Fowler Street.

The city council agreed to sell the building for $11 million instead of $17.4 million to make way for affordable housing.

Councilman Liston Bouchette told WINK News he didn’t think the two plans on the table were that different. However, the money the developer who had hoped to turn the old News-Press site into luxury condos was too good to pass up.

But why did Fort Myers accept $11 million instead of snatching $17.4 million from another developer? The council voted five in favor and two opposed, taking the lower bid because the developer plans to build affordable housing.

“The only way to make it up is to put it on the backs of taxpayers,” said Bouchette.

Councilman Bouchette and Mayor Kevin Anderson were the sole votes opposing taking less money. Bouchette told WINK News the city had to make more money on the property.

“We should be making money off it, returning this to the tax rolls and being a benefit to the city instead of a burden to the city and particularly the citizens,” said Bouchette.

The city paid $9 million for the site. Moreover, flipping it for $11 million while getting police officers, firefighters, teachers and nurses affordable housing seems like an excellent idea to Stacy Garcia.

“Offering affordable housing currently under those circumstances is best, and then possibly later on, once it’s rebuilt down here. Revisiting another location fo,r you know, high rises or, you know, luxury apartments,” said Garcia.

Buzzee’s general manager, Rafael Ramirez, said he’d rather see those luxury apartments the other developers would build because it would be better for business, but he understands why the council voted the way they did.

“I totally understand that there has to be something done so people have somewhere to go,” said Ramirez.

Bouchette told WINK News the next step is negotiating, and he hopes those talks push up the final sale price.

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