Campo Felice sells for $55 million in off-market deal

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Residents of Campo Felice, which means “Happy Fields” in Italian, said they had seen happier days than Wednesday. 

Westside Capital Group, a Miami real estate company, bought the building Tuesday for $55 million in an off-market deal. The price amounted to $170,000 for each of the 323 apartment units, which were about 50% leased according to the company. 

The company pledged to inject at least $5 million into upgrading the property. But that’s not why current residents were upset. 

At 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, longtime residents, all aged 55 and over, learned the plug had been pulled on most of their amenities. The 24-story tower at 2500 Edwards Street in downtown Fort Myers overlooks the Caloosahatchee River. 

Residents and their family members were scrambling Wednesday, pursuing new housing options or a course of action. They learned the two on-site restaurants were closed, effective immediately. In-room, motion-sensing cameras that would alert help if residents had not awakened by 9:30 each morning were deactivated. Rooms also had pull-cords for residents to use, should they need to summon assistance. Those were deactivated as well. 

Previous management had transportation in place for residents – shuttles for grocery shopping or doctor visits. That was eliminated.  

New management declined to comment. 

The new owners would honor all current lease agreements, said Melinda Sherwood, a spokesperson for Westside Capital and senior vice president of Kreps PR & Marketing. Lease modifications also likely would lower rents, she said. Rents were in the $2,500 to $4,000 per month range, residents said. 

“Campo Felice has suffered from financial distress, a dysfunctional business model and operational issues for several years,” Sherwood wrote. “And that is now – happily – coming to an end. 

“The new owner intends to transform Campo Felice into the highest quality residential building in all of Fort Myers.” 

One-on-one meetings were being arranged between new management and residents, she said. 

Residents and their family members, expressed surprise at the sudden end to their many, senior-oriented amenities and services. 

“In the meeting, they told us that they were going to be disconnecting the safety measures for us,” said Campo Felice resident Arlene Goldberg, a Fort Myers real estate agent. “They did that without any notice.  I think their intent is to have people leave. The seniors, they can’t stay here with the way they’re doing things. 

“I’m going to move. I’m looking for an apartment. This is insane. It’s a culture shock for everybody. Now it’s just an apartment building. It’s sad. It was the way they did it. It was devastating for some of the people.” 

Brent Poe’s mother has been living in Campo Felice for the last year. The sudden moves angered him, he said. 

“Most of them are seniors,” Poe said. “They’re retired people. A lot of them are on walkers. A lot of them have difficulties. They’re in their 70s, 80s, 90s. They threw these people under the bus. It’s not a safe place.” 

With the restaurants closed, meals to current residents will still be provided, but they will be delivered from a third-party caterer. 

“That takes everything away from these seniors,” Poe said. “They had been going to dinner together. They ought to be relocating these people. And they are not. These vulnerable in our population.”  

Westside Capital just made its foray into Fort Myers two weeks ago, purchasing the 265-unit Oasis Grand II towerless than two miles west for $71 million, which amounted to $267,924 per unit. 

Westside Capital said it would invest $5 million in upgrading the tower’s infrastructure and amenities in a news release. The apartments will no longer just cater to seniors and 55-and over. 

“The property will be marketed to various demographics, including senior citizens, working families and young professionals, particularly those in the medical field,” a news release said. 

The sale marks the latest in a long saga for the tower. It opened in 1986 as a Sheraton Hotel. It later became an Amtel hotel. 

Robert MacFarlane’s Fort Myers-based group bought it for $12.57 million in 2015. McFarlane later sold the LLC, which is why the property’s ownership stayed the same in Lee County property records, said Gerald Hendry, a Fort Myers property appraiser with Maxwell, Hendry & Simmons. 

“Basically, it was a defunct hotel when they took it over,” Hendry said. “They completely renovated it. It was a ton of money. I can’t tell you what that figure was.” 

The sale price falls in line with the value, considering more renovations are needed there, Hendry said. 

“It’s a good testament to what’s happening in Fort Myers as a whole,” he said. “There’s a lot of investment money coming into the area. It’s someone willing to invest in a project that probably needs a little bit of love and some modifications to a more traditional, multi-family project.” 

 

 

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