NewsLocal NewsIn Your NeighborhoodNorth Fort Myers


Vacant to vibrant: How Lee County leaders hope a North Fort Myers project can revitalize the area

The former home of the Hancock Bridge Square, a once bustling shopping area, has sat vacant for years.
Posted at 4:34 PM, Mar 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-13 16:34:55-04

When you drive over the Caloosahatchee River into North Fort Myers, one of the first things you see off of Cleveland Avenue is a giant, vacant eyesore.

The former home of the Hancock Bridge Square, a once bustling shopping area, has sat vacant for years.

“That was the place to go if you needed anything,” said Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman, who grew up in the area. “It had a Walmart and a grocery store. But once the two big anchors closed down, the smaller tenants didn’t stand a chance because they didn’t get the customers that they used to get. Eventually, the entire plaza closed down.”

Last week, the Lee BOCC approved a performance incentive grant of up to $200,000 for the redevelopment of Hancock Bridge Square.

The performance-based grant is intended to incentivize Mast Capital, which has plans to build up to 300 apartments at the site, according to the county.

As Lee County’s population has boomed in recent years, North Fort Myers has remained stagnant.

It’s a pass-through community for many commuters heading from Cape Coral to Fort Myers.

“I’ve talked to the businesses around Hancock Square and many of them told me, ‘why am I gonna fix my business up if I’m going to be next to this eyesore? Why invest my money if they’re not gonna look any good?’” said Hamman.

The North Fort Myers Revitalization Incentives program was first created in 2018.

Since then, $2 million has been appropriated to developers working to revitalize the area.

“People are hesitant to invest money in their business if they’re next to an eyesore,” said Hamman.

“Now that we’ve got some of the bigger, vacant buildings knocked down or in the process of being rebuilt as something beautiful. I think that will be a catalyst for the rest of the area to clean things up and bring more customers in.”