The Fort Myers City Council voted 5-2 Monday night against hiring the world’s largest real estate consultant company to find suitors to redevelop City of Palms Park and the almost 26 acres of land surrounding it.
Steve Belden, the city’s community development director, reminded the council of the September deadline to accept Lee County’s offer of up to $1 million in funding to demolish the former spring training home of the Boston Red Sox.
The Florida SouthWestern State College baseball and softball teams are continuing to lease the stadium at $1,000 a month, playing on fields that cost about $500,000 a year to maintain.
“I just don’t want to be here in six or eight months and be undecided on how we’re going to move forward,” Belden told the council, prior to a 40-minute presentation by CBRE.
CBRE has more than 500 offices in more than 100 countries and has had previous working agreements with the city on evaluating properties.
“So this would help facilitate this process of determining what we want to do, what the council wants to do with the stadium,” Belden said. “This does not propose to demolish the stadium. This does not propose to keep the stadium.”
Mike McShea, a CBRE executive vice president, co-leads CBRE’s public sector practice. He flew to Fort Myers from San Diego, and he tried to explain the benefits of further partnering with the city.
The city would have been paying his company $5,000 a month for the next 10 to 15 months to find developers for the site. The money would be refunded, but CBRE instead would profit from “success fees,” percentages of the value of the project from the developers that would range from 1.5% to 3%. The percentage would fall with the value of the project, but CBRE would make more money, the larger the value of any development.
“We want to evaluate the market potential of the entire site,” McShea told the council. “We want to do an assessment of the density on this site. What’s possible? What would the market support? We’ve looked at the vision plan very carefully. We are not advocating anything. Whether the stadium should come down now or later.”
CBRE offered to develop a request for proposal to shop to national and international developers for the site and then bring those back to the city for discussion.
“What I think is going to happen, is you’re going to get the best and brightest in the world,” McShea said. “And they’re going to come back. And they’re going to tell you, this is what we think you can do in Fort Myers. Invariably, the very best proposals rise to the top.”
Lee Ann Horst, CBRE’s southeast region manager, pointed to her company’s agreement with the city of Hollywood, Florida.
There, a project slated to earn the city $210,000 in revenue ended up generating $400,000 instead, she said.
“Our fiduciary responsibility is to the city,” Horst said. “It would be an extremely collaborative process.”
Council members Johnnie Streets and Fred Burson were the only yes votes.
“I think this is something we should be doing,” Burson said during the meeting. “These are professionals coming in and telling us what they believe should be successful. I think it’s a good move on our part to get a look at what might be successful. I would like to be involved in that process just to offer my thoughts and hear what their thoughts are. Not to impede it in any way.”
Council member Lin Bochette said he would be open to revisiting CBRE’s involvement, but he wanted more specifics in front of him first.
“The goals are unchanged, but we need to rethink our approach to reach them,” Bochette said. “The public deserves to see the vision.”