River District tower controversy

Posted at 10:50 PM, Jul 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-21 06:36:48-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. - A developer is proposing a nine story condo in the heart of the Fort Myers River District, where most buildings are just two to three stories.

Not everyone on the historic preservation commission is pleased with the idea, but some city leaders say it will make an excellent edition to the skyline.

In order to preserve the historic nature of the downtown River District, the original height limit was five stories.  It's now been bumped up to seven, and the developer wants to go even higher.  And that's causing some controversy.

"It will change the flavor of the neighborhood. And, it's the historic core of the neighborhood which is central to what makes Fort Myers special."

Some local residents aren't sold on the idea of a tower in the heart of the historic district.

Kendra Carlson is a downtown resident.  "I don't think it really fits with what we've got going on down here. You can see all the lovely bricks and stuff."

On the architect's Facebook page you can see a 3-D video that shows what the proposed tower will look like.

The first floor will be for stores and parking.  Two more floors for commercial business.  And five more stories for residential with the top floor being more of an open patio.

There will also be a mechanized carousel which will stack the cars on top of each other, in order to maximize the parking potential.

But some members of the historic preservation commission aren't so sure this project is a good idea.  They intend to speak up at next weeks public hearing on the issue.

Cathy Chestnut is with the Historic Preservation Commission.  "This building may not be right because it's too large. The scale of it will cast shadows and block the wind and it will affect all the views from all the neighbors."

But downtown Redevelopment Director Paight says if the project is done right, it won't be a problem.  "If it engages the pedestrian with a very pedestrian-friendly walkable storefront atmosphere, height doesn't matter quite as much."