The Renaissance of Downtown Fort Myers

By Gary Tasman

As we look back at downtown Fort Myers 40 years ago, there was little to no reason to head that way unless you had business to conduct during the day. Downtown turned into a ghost town after 5 p.m. on weeknights and on the weekends. But lawmakers and community leaders saw its potential and had a vision for change. Flash forward to today, and you’ll witness the renaissance taking place that is transforming downtown Fort Myers into a desirable destination to live, work and play seven days a week. In 2020, we identified key developments that would have the greatest impact on the growth of Downtown and Midtown Fort Myersincluding the Luminary Hotel and the return of conventions with the Caloosa Sound Convention Center.

Now business and housing markets in the area are booming and there are a variety of new downtown Fort Myers businesses in the permitting process. Few cities in the region have it all in one place like Fort Myers does. Nestled alongside the picturesque Caloosahatchee River, downtown boasts boating, parks, walkable streets, rich history at your fingertips, local charm, independently owned boutique shops and restaurants, outdoor dining, and an array of arts and cultural events.

City of Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson said, “Over the last 20 years, the city has done a phenomenal job of bringing in more rooftops, and the focus is now on continued economic development.”

Poised for More Growth

Fort Myers and Lee County are poised for more growth than ever as people from across the country flock to our beautiful waterfront paradise. With the new Caloosa Sound Convention Center in full swing, we are seeing more national and international conventions coming back to Fort Myers and away from Bonita Springs, Sanibel and Captiva. Plus waterfront living, vibrant nightlife spots and a variety of entertainment options only add to the area’s intrigue.

The Luminary Hotel has been hugely successful. The 243-room hotel features a rooftop bar, signature restaurant, modern diner, local coffee roastery and nearby waterside restaurant. Guests can spend time in the hotel or walk outside into the center of downtown Fort Myers to charming shops, restaurants and bars. The Luminary’s potential to bring more businesses to the Fort Myers River District paired with other downtown developments will make the area one to watch.

The Caloosa Sound Amphitheater is now open and 2,500 people are able to watch concerts and other performances. Centennial Park will also soon be complete and that will help attract even more people to the area. Big-name shows at these venues will only equal more dollars being pumped into the downtown economy. Together these venues will help put downtown Fort Myers on the entertainment map at the perfect time, as more performers are beginning to tour the country.

Planting the Seeds of the Future

With these demand generators in place, 40 years from now the city could be unrecognizable. These developments will not only enhance the city and make it more appealing for property investors, but we will also see more businesses consider Fort Myers as their base of operations. If we continue on this path of growth, the area could become another unique world-class 18-hour-a-day live work and play environment alive with deep local culture and rich subtropical entertainment and atmosphere.

“We’ve got to do it right, so it is attractive to businesses and people say that’s a community we want to do business in, we want to raise our families in and that’s a community we want to live and work in,” Mayor Anderson said.

During the height of COVID, 850 to 1,100 people were moving to Florida each day. 23,000 people moved to Lee County alone from July 2020 to July 2021. Downtown Fort Myers and Lee County are blossoming and the seeds we plant now will help the area become the booming metropolis we know it can be.

The Future of Downtown Fort Myers

Focusing on the future and potential of downtown Fort Myers should be our priority. Ensuring that Fort Myers remains the vibrant, attractive city it is now depends on whether city leadership and developers do the right thing today.

The city is looking at the possibility of taking Henry Street from the river down to the stadium and making it a pedestrian walk. There is also talk of smart parking and the technology that comes with self-driving cars. We will likely see the day when there will be more people than cars coming downtown. This means the city and businesses should look at how to better serve heavy pedestrian traffic and even consider the future of parking garages in the downtown space.

Some big developments to keep in mind:

  • Vantage – Proposed 16-story apartment building (225 units) and an accompanying 4-level parking deck.
  • Seaboard Waterside Apartments – Two 6-story apartment buildings with a total of 420 units and amenities.
  • Edsel Lofts – Residential development consisting of nine 3-story townhomes, each with a two-car garage and master suite terrace.
  • AC Marriott – New 8-story, 132-room AC Marriott hotel with a ground floor bar and rooftop entertainment center.
  • Gardners Park Grove – New residential development consisting of 10, two-story homes.
  • Riverfront First Street Apartments – New 8-story multi-family development consisting of 221 residential units featuring a pool, riverwalk and associated amenities.
  • McCollum Hall – Complete renovation of the historic McCollum Hall Building.
  • Allure – Two new 32-story towers with 292 residential units and amenities.
  • Staybridge Suites Hotel – New 6-story hotel with 100 guest rooms, pool, fitness area, and associated amenities.
  • Prima Luce – Two 22-story towers with 220 residential units and amenities.
  • Seaboard Self Storage – Self-storage facility consisting of three buildings with a combination of 60,000 sq ft.
  • 2233 Grand Avenue Warehouse – New 3,892 square foot retail warehouse.
  • First Street Apartments – Multifamily development consisting of 275 units, parking garage, 9,189 sq ft clubhouse, pool and related infrastructure.
  • Hampton Inn – New 111-room Hampton Inn hotel on the corner of McGregor Bvd and Cleveland Ave.
  • Silver Hills at Fort Myers – New 5-story apartment complex with 327 units along with a parking garage and courtyard amenities.

The landscape of downtown is changing, evolving and becoming a city of the future. If you are looking to invest and grow with Fort Myers, make sure you have the right team with you. The commercial property experts at Cushman & Wakefield | Commercial Property Southwest Florida have the knowledge, data and resources to determine the best strategy for you. Contact us by calling 239-489-3600 or contact-us.

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