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Fort Myers mayor talks about downtown apartment project controversy

Fort Myers mayor talks about downtown apartment project controversy

FORT MYERS, Fla. — As construction crews start the very first steps in building the First Street Apartments project in downtown Fort Myers, the city’s mayor is calling for more information on whether the land underneath the project site contains artifacts or even Native American burial grounds.

Zimmer Development Company, based in North Carolina, is the developer for the project that will hold 275 units and include a multi-story parking garage. The city said Zimmer commissioned an archaeological study of the land this year but has not made the results public

“I have directed the city attorney to contact the attorney for the developer and request that we get copies of any reports they have,” said Kevin Anderson, mayor of Fort Myers in an interview with FOX4 on Wednesday afternoon. “From any surveying they did that would either say ‘yes, there’s an issue’ or ‘no, there is not’.”

City leaders say Zimmer Development has completed all of the required permitting for the new complex, going up over a plot of prime real estate in downtown Fort Myers. The project will stretch between First and Second Streets and also Royal Palm Avenue east to Fowler Street, at the foot of the Edison Bridge.

Last month, the state’s Division of Historical Resources sent the city a letter saying that all project activity must stop immediately the land contains any human remains. On June 21st, Natalie A. De La Toree Salas, an archaeologist with Florida Atlantic University and a Fort Myers resident, told the city council to act on these concerns.

“We, as a city, don’t have the right (to stop the project) until there is proof that there was a burial ground or there are artifacts or remains,” said Anderson.

FOX4 contacted Zimmer Development on Wednesday afternoon for comment on the project and a timetable for when it would reveal the findings of the study. As of air time on Wednesday night, we had not heard back.

The Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency reports the total project cost as $73.4 million, with $11 million dollars approved for tax increment financing. The project is scheduled to be finished by June 2024. The space has been vacant for five years since the demolition of the First United Methodist Church.

FOX4 did ask Anderson about any frustration or disappointment over not getting the results of the developer’s study.

“I wished that, when they did their survey, they would have immediately provided it to the city,” said Anderson. “So there is some frustration but, again, it’s not just on (the developer). The state has not provided any documentation as to what knowledge they have or if there is anything buried.”

As Southwest Florida is seeing thousands of people moving here each month, Anderson also talked about the larger picture and the balance of housing projects to handle the growing population.

“I get calls from both sides,” said Anderson. “The reality of it is there are a lot of people moving to Florida during the peak of the pandemic. It was up to 1,100 people a day. What we can do it control growth, try to make it good growth, smart growth but we can’t stop it if you’re a property owner. (If) you own a tract of land that’s zoned for multi-family high-rise, then you have that right to put a multi-family high-rise on that piece of property.”

Written By

Avi Adkins is a seasoned journalist with a passion for storytelling and a keen eye for detail. With years of experience in the field, Adkins has established himself as a respected figure in journalism.

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