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Fort Myers Incentives Wanted for 274 Downtown Units



The First United Methodist Church in downtown Fort Myers was razed four years ago. When it closed, it was the oldest church in Lee County and could become the location of a new residential community and new parking garage.

On the former site of the United Methodist Church of Fort Myers, which held its last service a little more than five years ago, a planned apartment complex with 274 residential units could be built in the city center with the help of tax incentives from the city.

First Street Apartments is proposed by Zimmer Construction, which is currently building a large apartment complex in Cape Coral and another on the legendary former goat farm on College Avenue.

North Carolina-based Zimmer originally proposed a 297-unit complex for the downtown location, but executives at the closely-owned family-owned construction company said one of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic had caused change.

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“We have reduced the number of one-bedroom apartments,” said Jeffrey Zimmer on Wednesday evening at a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Fort Myers Community Redevelopment. “Some people want another bedroom for home work.”

The result is more multi-bedroom units, reducing the number of units to 274 as some one-bedroom quarters have been combined into two-bedroom apartments.

Before the client can proceed with the project, a few questions still need to be clarified, including how much money the city CRA is providing as an incentive for Zimmer Construction to realize the project.

The developer said construction costs will increase with the need to build a parking garage as part of the 4.47-acre complex that will be on First Street and bordered by Royal Palm Boulevard and Fowler and Second Streets.

Building a new apartment building on the property will involve some high cost, and the developer and the CRA disagree on how much tax hike funding, or TIF, to provide the project, which is valued at $ 73.4 million .

TIF enables property tax revenue to be used to pay part of the financing of a project. The TIF program was created by state lawmakers more than half a century ago.

Zimmer told advisory board members on Wednesday evening that the revised storm surge zone regulations would significantly increase the cost of the five-story garage the company would build to co-build with the four-story shared apartment.

To increase the height of the apartment buildings, to provide some level of security from the Caloosahatchee River flooding, and to meet new Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines, six feet of infill would be required.

Draft drawings of the planned house show a facade with turret-like towers crowned by a mortar board-shaped deck.

The developers initially sought incentives of $ 13.6 million, but received a recommendation from CRA management of $ 9.3 million. A revised $ 11.025 million application is under further consideration by city council members.

The construction of the multi-storey car park, which is needed for the care of tenants and guests in the new complex, would use the entire recommended TIF incentive. The CRA Advisory Board recommended that city councils, in their role as Redevelopment Commissioners, approve the $ 9.3 million incentive award.

However, the advisory board members noted that the CRA staff’s recommendation was made prior to the disclosure of higher costs.

The First United Methodist Church in downtown Fort Myers was the oldest church in Lee County. It was demolished four years ago. A property developer is proposing 274 apartments and a five-story parking garage on the site.

The new condominium could serve as a bookend for traditional downtown Fort Myers, complimenting the 300-unit City Walk project that is nearing construction in what is increasingly considered to be the expanded downtown area of ​​Fort Myers.

In May 2016, the 144-year-old Methodist believers attended their final service as members of a congregation founded in 1872 by members of the Hendry family that played an important role in making Fort Myers a commercial center.

The final decision on the city’s financial support for the new project is expected to be taken at a meeting later this month.

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