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Ferris Wheel on an island? Fort Myers debates controversial downtown proposal

Posted at 12:02 AM, May 24, 2024

FORT MYERS, Fla. — How would you feel about a Ferris wheel in downtown Fort Myers? What if it was situated in the middle of the Caloosahatchee River? These are the questions stirring up the community as locations for the proposed Ferris wheel are being discussed.

Virginia Harper, the board secretary for the Lee Trust for Historic Preservation, waited more than three hours at a meeting on Thursday to voice her opposition to the proposal.

"Chip chip chip away at our ability to preserve what's left of historic Fort Myers," Harper passionately expressed during the meeting.

"I thought it was a joke honestly," Harper continued. "Are we that desperate that we need to carnivalize downtown?"

City Councilman Liston Bochette suggested an alternative location, proposing the idea of placing the Ferris wheel on an island in the Caloosahatchee River.

"I am concerned for is it appropriate for where we are. Now if we want to put it on Lofton's Island in the middle of the river, boy that'd be a home run," said Bochette.

More likely locations being considered are behind the Repertory Theater and in front of the Luminary Hotel. Steve Weathers, the city's economic developer, emphasized the importance of foot traffic for such a project.

"In DC, in the capital, it's out on a 500-foot pier, and people don't want to walk to it because it's 500 feet, so you would have to have that. I don't even see how that's financially viable to run a successful business because this would be a privately owned business," Weathers explained.

Weathers mentioned that the next step involves listening to public opinion and taking cues on how to proceed. Should the council approve the project, a mobile Ferris wheel will be installed for one season to test its success.