Downtown Fort Myers Richards Building goes in foreclosure

Reporter: Amy Galo
Published: Updated:

An update on the historic Richards Building in downtown Fort Myers: it’s going into foreclosure.

To recap, the building has been the center of controversy since it was stained white over the original brick despite a stop work order.

On Friday, it was revealed that the century-old building is in foreclosure, and according to the lawsuit, it’s happening for several reasons.

Among them was performing or contracting unpermitted work and failing to preserve the property.

For more than 100 years, the Richards Building stood tall in downtown Fort Myers.

“My great-grandfather was RQ Richards. He was the namesake for this building up until about a month ago,” said Whitney Richards Kearns.

When the current owner, 1617 Hendry LLC, decided to put up a new sign.

“Pythian Building was the name of the original building,” said Kearns, “so it was, I’ll acknowledge, historically that, but for the better part of the century, it bore the name of somebody who truly helped shape the community into what it is today.”

And if removing the Richards sign wasn’t enough, the owner also painted the building white despite a stop-work order.

“It says to me they never truly cared about the historic aspect of this building to begin with,” said Kearns.

The owner faces a lawsuit that was filed on Wednesday by Ashley Barrett Bloom, the mortgage holder.

It accuses the owner of failing to comply with local ordinances, failing to repair broken windows, remove graffiti, and maintain wind insurance coverage. It also cites a failure to deliver plans, permits and copies of insurance policies to Bloom.

“It pleases me, and at the same time, it worries me because I understand how foreclosures work,” said Kearns.

Whitney said she would buy it back if she had the means. But since she can’t, she can only hope it falls into the right hands for the time being.

“I hope that the Richards Building and the other historic places in the area are still around when my kids are bringing their kids downtown and generations to come,” said Kearns.

WINK News spoke with Bloom on the phone, who touched on their decision to sue the current owners, saying, “Our corner is the security interest in the building and any impairment of that interest.”

WINK News also reached out to the lawyer representing the building’s current owner but has not heard back.

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