FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — The first major hotel development on Fort Myers Beach in at least a decade is moving forward after more than a year and a half of delays. Demolition resumed Friday morning to make way for the Margaritaville resort. Two lawsuits have been stalling the project.
A former tattoo parlor near the Matanzas Pass Bridge had been vacant, so John Gucciardo, a spokesman for developer TPI Properties, said that allowed them to demolish the building. Previously, the vacant building that once housed the Chamber of Commerce was razed.
"One of the things the community was interested in was our ability to do something with some of the vacant buildings, and that's what you're seeing now," Gucciardo said.
There were originally many concerns from people and business owners in the beach town over the initial size of the planned resort.
But after TPI scaled down their plans for the development, the Margaritaville project gained more support - even from Silver Sands Villas owner Andrea Carriere.
"We had discussions, and I said 'no, no, no,' then on the fifth (proposed plan) I said yes," Carriere said.
Even though Margaritaville will be a big competitor for her business, Carriere believes that competition results in better hotels - and a better experience for tourists.
"I'm glad to see something happening, even in the midst of the lawsuits," she said. "I think they will be dismissed."
Attorney Ralph Brooks, who is representing one of the residents opposed to the project said that their lawsuit against the Town of Fort Myers Beach for allowing the resort project is "in the discovery phase."
Gucciardo said another vacant building could be demolished in another month or two to make way for the seven-acre resort. TPI hopes to have Margaritaville open in 2021.