Close this search box.

Log in

Top Stories

Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency commissioners unanimously approved March 27 the findings of slum and blight analysis of 1,100 acres in the eastern part of the city and the East Fort Myers Redevelopment Area Plan. Both will be forwarded to City Council for final approval. 

LaRue Planning began working on reestablishing the revitalization plan for east Fort Myers through public meetings in August 2022. 

The study area for the proposed East Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Area has a south boundary at Billy’s Creek, east boundary at the Fort Myers city limits at Prospect Avenue, north boundary at the Caloosahatchee River and west boundary at Billy’s Creek. 

The city established a redevelopment area in the identified location beginning at the peak of the real estate boom in May 2007 before it was abolished and dissolved due to the Great Recession.  

The first step in reestablishing the redevelopment area was determining slum and blight as defined by state statutes. “Our area after findings had at least five or six indices which identify slum and blight,” LaRue Planning’s Bob Franke said. 

According to state statute, blighted areas have existing conditions that lead to economic distress or endanger life or property. 

“When it comes to endangering life or property, it could be rundown homes, poor traffic signals or traffic lighting or pedestrian movements that are dangerous,” Franke said. “And that certainly is the case when it comes to Palm Beach Boulevard.” 

Other findings include hazardous waste or contaminated sites, including 10 petroleum sites identified in the study area and one identified as “other.” 

Community Center in East Fort Myers“When developers come and look at a particular piece of property or an area, these hazardous waste sites pop up,” Franke said. “Now, they may not actually have contamination on-site, but it’s a perception of being contaminated that actually reduces the willingness of the developer to move forward with improvements of the property.” 

Other issues include deteriorated infrastructure, faulty lot layout, underutilized existing lots and unsanitary and unsafe conditions.  

“In the course of two years, between May 2021 and May 2023, there were 3,344 violations of high grass and weeds in this area and 1,800 cases of abandoned vehicles,” Franke said. “Just these two issues alone, including the 4,763 issued violations for maintenance of property just stands out in my mind as one of the things that really brings home the issue of slum and blight.” 

The vote March 27 was the first step in an ongoing series of steps designed to stimulate economic development, enhance and improve existing neighborhoods and assist redevelopment activities within the proposed area. 

Franke gave an overall reason as to why the city should move forward with the reestablishment of the East Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Area. 

“This area has been the same, looked the same, built the same for the last 20, 30 or 40 years and nothing’s happened,” Franke said. “At this point, this program gives you an opportunity to try something new, a different approach than you’ve had in the past. If you don’t do anything, it’s going to stay the same.”  

The plan breaks down implementation into three categories, including planning, redevelopment and community improvement programs. 

Overall, the action plan remains general, as more concrete plans will develop with time. “When we’re doing redevelopment, it’s a challenge,” Community Development Director Steve Belden said. “You’ve got old infrastructure. You’ve got these substandard lots. You’ve got substandard roadways. That’s a challenge in any area that you’re trying to redevelop, so those things moving forward are things we have to address.”  

“The plan kind of sets the basis to do that. Then once the plan is adopted, we can get into the details of a project-by-project approach and get into the meat and bones of actual redevelopment.” 

Copyright 2024 Gulfshore Life Media, LLC All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior written consent.

Don't Miss

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Please note that article corrections should be submitted for grammar or syntax issues.

If you have other concerns about the content of this article, please submit a news tip.