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New Dunbar development will have more minority contractors

Posted at 6:53 PM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 18:53:31-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Rather than seeing seven acres of land covered by trees when you drive past Edison avenue and Highland avenue in Fort Myers, within the next couple years you’ll see 140 beautiful townhomes.

Roy Kennix, the development consultant with Towles Garden townhome Community said there will be partial and full financial support for people who cannot afford a downpayment, and help with mortgage through subsidies.

“Get a mortgage that will be affordable. So, he’s not spending more than a third of his income for housing,” he said.

He said it won’t just help families living here now, but generations to come.

“What it does is create a certain level of wealth and equity for the individual homeowners,” he said.

But, developments that come to the Dunbar community - a predominately black neighborhood - are often built by people who look nothing like the residents.

Jennifer Repress, a local contractor said she’s felt left out on big city projects time and time again.

“At times it’s a slap in the face when you have others from Miami, Orlando areas, come in, take the jobs. It’s like, are you going to feed us? We’re here in the community. We built it up. We were raised here,” she said.

Mike Love, the City of Fort Myers’ Director of the Southwest Florida Enterprise Center said he’s working to change that. He said projects approved by the city like the town home one require at least 14 percent minority contractors on board. However, he said it’s hard to reach that benchmark since many minority businesses aren’t big enough to take on a project of this magnitude.

“That’s the reason why we’re brining all these minority contractors and we’re going to help them in every step of the way,” he said.

On Thursday Love along with the city’s Minority Contractors Association are hosting a workshop for minority contractors to get certified and renew their licenses if they need it; so that they can band together to work on the town homes project.

Lee Ford, with Towles Garden, is moderating the event. He said a project with collaboration like this hasn’t happened in decades.

“Back in the day, the public works building for Lee County, the Dunbar Library, and the Three Oaks Library was built on this same type of concept,” he said.

Love said he’s also pushing for the project’s general contractor to hire day laborers from the community. So, even people who don’t attend tomorrow’s workshop can still get their hands on the project. That workshop starts at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Southwest Florida Enterprise Center.

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