Fort Myers City Council approved, by a 4-2 vote Monday, an ordinance to amend the Walmart planned unit development at the corner of Six Mile Cypress Parkway and Colonial Boulevard to allow the construction of a drive-thru-only, 1,700-square-foot Starbucks.
“It is a prototype and would be the first of its type in the nation,” city Planning Manager Nicole DeVaughn said.
The store will have a standard drive-thru lane and another drive-thru lane for mobile orders, with no indoor or outdoor seating for patrons. Access to the site will be provided via internal connections serving the existing Walmart Supercenter plaza.
The concept was initially presented to the city’s planning board in July, when it was unanimously denied and found to be inconsistent with the city’s comprehensive plan.
“Because this is a car-centric, drive-thru-only facility, they felt the lack of pedestrian bicycle facilities at this location was detrimental and made it inconsistent with the comprehensive plan,” DeVaughn said.
Despite the planning board’s 8-0 vote to recommend denial of the project to Council, city staff still recommended approval of the project and found it to be consistent with the comprehensive plan.
“It’s a Walmart with a very large parking lot,” DeVaughn said. “With those facilities on the other side of the major highway, we believe that this being car-centric would not be detrimental.”
Project developer Adam Bumberg, who has been working on this project for close to two years, said the project was specifically chosen for this location.
“It is literally the first one in the nation that’s going to be done,” he said. “It was specifically designed to be this drive-thru model only because of the new cafe store down in front of Publix (less than a mile away on Six Mile Cypress Parkway), as well as one in The Forum.”
The planning board suggested adding a walk-up window, but Bumberg said that’s not what the location was designed to be. The drive-thru-only model aligns itself with the changing needs of customers many companies have seen and are trying to cater to, he said.
Driven by the effects of COVID-19 and evolving customer needs, Starbucks announced its store portfolio transformation in June 2020. The drive-thru-only model showcases Starbucks’ shift to more convenience-led formats, such as drive-thru and mobile order-only locations, company officials said.
The new drive-thru-only location may be the first in the nation from Starbucks but is a concept that many chains are rolling out, such as Chick-fil-A, White Castle and Taco Bell.