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Fort Myers Beach leaders met to discuss Times Square redevelopment with R2P2 team, supported by FEMA and EPA for Hurricane Ian recovery.

FMB Charts New Course With Times Square Revamp

Council Members, Business Leaders, and Developers Unite for Public-Private Redevelopment Vision

By Richard Luthmann

Fort Myers Beach leaders convened last Thursday to discuss the redevelopment of Times Square. The meeting included town officials, business community representatives, and real estate developers. This initiative is a part of the Recovery and Resiliency Partnership Project (R2P2), supported by FEMA and the EPA to aid recovery from Hurricane Ian.

Community stakeholders discuss Fort Myers Beach redevelopment.
Thursday’s stakeholder meeting, facilitated by R2P2, addressed the future of Times Square and Fort Myers Beach redevelopment. From the top left, around the table, are Terry Persaud, Joe Orlandini, Bill Spikowski, Victor Dover, Karen Woodson, Elizabeth S. “Ellie” Baker, Steve Postma, and Margaret Flippen.

Council Member Karen Woodson and FMB Chamber of Commerce President Jacki Liszak had a seat at the table. Developers and significant Times Square property owners Joe Orlandini and Terry Persaud joined the session. They were flanked by R2P2’s specialized team members, including award-winning urban designer Victor Dover, principal of Dover, Kohl & Partners; Senior Environmental Planner Elizabeth S. “Ellie” Baker; Project Director Margaret Flippen; Town Planner Steve Postma; and Buildings, Zoning, and Planning guru Bill Spikowski, a past recipient of the prestigious John Nolen Award.

R2P2 presented preliminary redevelopment plans for Times Square, encompassing county land, public space, and private property. The project balances aesthetic and practical concerns while adhering to modern building codes; all focused on Fort Myers Beach redevelopment.

Background

FMB Town Manager Andy Hyatt [L] and Director of Operations Frankie Kropacek [R].

The R2P2 team has been preparing its preliminary design launch for several months, drawing on decades of local knowledge. In March, the team toured Times Square with FMB Chamber President Jacki Liszak, Town Manager Andy Hyatt, and town officials Frankie Kropacek (Director of Operations) and Jason Freeman, the R2P2 project liaison.

“Understanding the lay of the land is literally step one,” said Bill Spikowski, who is no stranger to Estero Island, having had a hand in community designs throughout Lee County and beyond since the early 1980s as part of the public and private sectors.

Intelligent Fort Myers Beach Redevelopment

FMB lies on Estero Island, a 6-mile barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. The island is connected to the mainland by the Matanzas Pass Bridge to the north and the Big Carlos Pass Bridge to the south. Estero Boulevard is the main route across the island. Neighborhoods are organized along streets and canals linking the bayfront to the beach. The main commercial center remains at the base of the Matanzas Pass Bridge and along Old San Carlos Boulevard.

FEMA designated the island a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). Properties are mapped in either Flood Zone VE or AE, both high-risk flood zones known as the 100-year flood zone. In addition to heavy rain, the island is exposed to storm surges.

Fort Myers Beach Redevelopment: leaders met to discuss Times Square with R2P2 team, supported by FEMA and EPA for Hurricane Ian recovery.
Contemplating Times Square’s Future: From left to right, Terry Persaud, Joe Orlandini, Bill Spikowski, and Victor Dover.

“Understanding flood designations and regulations is crucial for building back stronger and more resilient,” noted Spikowski.

Times Square was once one of FMB’s most iconic areas at the north end of Estero Island and the base of Matanzas Pass Bridge. The hurricane destroyed this vibrant downtown space. Stakeholders want to return Times Square to its position of local prominence. Today, the plaza hosts festivals, events, and markets while adjacent properties await rebuilding or repurposing.

Stakeholders Address Key Concerns

The heart of Times Square FMB are the “view corridors.” One runs from Estro Blvd. through to Lynn Hall Park. The other runs perpendicular and traverses from the Pier and beach access to Old San Carlos.

With its beachfront location and the terminus of Old San Carlos Boulevard, there is an opportunity to rethink and rebuild Times Square as the community’s heart. Property owner and developer Joe Orlandini emphasized preserving the area’s core connection through view corridors.

“Central to the aesthetic are two view corridors, from the Pier to the Back Bay, down Old San Carlos, and through the heart of Times Square from the Estero Boulevard approach on down through the iconic clock and into Lynn Hall Park,” Orlandini said.

Owner/developer Terry Persaud highlighted the need for practical considerations in redevelopment plans. He acknowledged the necessity of balancing code issues with developer land costs and economic viability.

“We all have to keep an open mind. That is how private-public partnerships work,” Persaud stated.

Council Member Karen Woodson discussed the challenges of coordinating Times Square’s redevelopment with the new Pier as part of the cohesive vision Orlandini, Persaud, and others have put forward.

“The FEMA requirements mandate a rebuilt Pier to modern code and a greater height,” Woodson remarked, drawing on her experience as a leader on the Pier Rebuild Committee.

Collaborative Planning and Vision

The meeting marked the next crucial step in the partnership between local stakeholders and R2P2. The planners presented six plan options for discussion, all viewable on their website. The consensus was to start with Option 4.

R2P2’s proposed Option 4 is the consensus starting point for Times Square Redevelopment discussions.

“We envision a project with an open design and shared and single elevators. Option 4 is a starting point because it shows the buildings at one story over the elevated base, which is the current zoning for the area,” Orlandini explained.

The plan includes utilities and kitchens on the second floor, transparent garage doors for an open atmosphere, and logistical solutions for moving people, products, and trash. It also features art pedestals from the Pier to Old San Carlos along the walkway.

Community and Economic Impact

FMB Chamber President Jacki Liszak

Hurricane Ian, a Category 5 hurricane, devastated Southwest Florida in September 2022. Communities are now faced with the task of rebuilding. FEMA and the EPA have provided crucial support through the Recovery and Resiliency Partnership Project.

The R2P2 initiative promotes regional economic recovery by engaging city leadership and regional, state, and national partners. A key focus is the redevelopment of Times Square, a central FMB community hub and a significant local economy driver. For many, the comeback is critical.

“When you are an Islander, you know the risks, and you know the benefits. Everyone who lives and works on a barrier island has decided that they will put it all out on the line. If you ask someone whether their home, investments and 401(k) are at risk, you should come to Estero Island. That is how we live our lives,” Chamber President Liszak said.

Future Vision for Fort Myers Beach Redevelopment

Fort Myers Beach Redevelopment: leaders met to discuss Times Square with R2P2 team, supported by FEMA and EPA for Hurricane Ian recovery.
FMB Real Estate Developers and Property Owners Terry Persaud [L] and Joe Orlandini [R] discuss plans for the new Times Square.

Developers Orlandini and Persaud are optimistic about the collaborative plans.

“The seminal moment is when you take in the view coming over the bridge on Matanzas Pass. That must guide our aesthetic focus,” Orlandini said.

Persaud noted the designed give-backs by property owners, including access pathways to the beach.

“The Town, County, and property owners will ensure a continuous, at-grade walkthrough from Estero Boulevard through the walkway and filtering down into the clock square and access to the beach, Lynn Hall Park, and Old San Carlos,” Persaud said.

Orlandini highlighted the need for creativity in the redevelopment process.

“The end result will call for some ‘Disney-magic’ because a lot will be going on behind the scenes in order to create the visitor experience,” Orlandini remarked.

The collaborative efforts of the town officials, business leaders, and developers, supported by R2P2, aim to create a revitalized Times Square that balances aesthetic appeal with practical functionality. The project promises to enhance FMB’s appeal and support its economic recovery.

All Eyes on Fort Myers Beach Redevelopment

Coastal and inland communities face the daunting task of recovering from Hurricane Ian. The hurricane, a Category 5 storm, made landfall in September 2022. It brought storm surges and extremely high wind speeds that devastated Southwest Florida. These communities, now in the arduous task of rebuilding, are not alone. FEMA and the EPA have stepped in to provide crucial support. They have initiated the Recovery and Resiliency Partnership Project (R2P2) to benefit Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, and Sanibel.

A key focus is engaging city leadership and regional, state, and national partners in discussing promoting the regional recreation economy. This effort supports the region’s physical and economic recovery.

Victor Dover best summed up the meeting: “All eyes are on FMB. In many ways, how the Town rebuilds will be the ‘plan’ for the whole state.”

“It’s an immense responsibility,” remarked Orlandini. “And we are up to the challenge.”

For more information on the redevelopment plans and preliminary options, visit the R2P2 website at https://www.coastalflr2p2.com/town-of-fort-myers-beach.

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