The long road for the development of a Fort Myers apartment complex just got a bit shorter.
Vantage, a 17-story, 229-unit luxury complex, should break ground in August with construction taking about two years for a projected opening of August 2025.
An aging retail strip mall at the northwest side of where McGregor Boulevard and U.S. 41 meet was razed this week, clearing the way for construction to begin. Honc Destruction began the teardown Monday and was finishing the clearing of the 2.3-acre site Friday.
DevMar Development, originally based in Michigan, had an agreement to buy the site in 2019 and closed on it in January 2021 for $3.74 million, purchasing it from a group of German investors, including Fort Myers resident Nils Richter.
Richter’s group assembled the parcels for more than $1 million.
“We bought it strategically from the bank at the bottom of the market it and held onto it until the next development cycle came around,” Richter said. “This is a development of a scale much larger than we would be comfortable doing. We believe [CEO] Mark [DeMaria] and DevMar are going to build an exceptional product, the only new high-rise luxury rental community in this whole market. We think that is a good sign for all of Fort Myers and especially for the potential of downtown. We can’t wait to see this project become reality.”
The developer will be receiving $11.4 million in tax increment financing from the city of Fort Myers, a little more than 10% of the anticipated $94 million construction costs.
“It’s a journey,” DeMaria said.
Six months after DevMar got the land under contract, the Federal Emergency Management Agency altered the flood maps.
“It placed downtown Fort Myers within that flood plain,” DeMaria said. “Half of our site was within that flood plain. That created some major concerns with our design direction. The city administration at the time informed us that they had put in a formal appeal to FEMA to change their boundaries of the flood mapping.”
Rather than wait for the appeal, DevMar adapted to the new regulations, which added between $1.5 million and $2 million to the project costs.
“We came to a point in the project, in our design and development of this project, where we decided to move forward,” DeMaria said, “and spend the additional money to move the structure another level and above the flood plain. We made the decision and redesigned our plans. That delayed us quite a bit. And then about that time we made that decision, [COVID-19] hit.”
The pandemic caused further delays, as did the ensuing supply chain issues for construction materials.
It seemed every time the company cleared a hurdle, another one came into view, DeMaria said.
“The first four or five months, everybody was just waiting to see what this all meant,” he said of the pandemic. “What it all meant was nobody was in any public buildings.”
That caused further delays. Meanwhile, construction costs and interest rates were rising.
“That was another big battle,” he said. “And then we had the hurricane.”
The focus on Fort Myers after the hurricane helped the project, said DeMaria, who remains confident in the project despite all the challenges.
“The good thing is, every step of the way — it’s been several years in the making — Fort Myers has only gotten stronger demand,” DeMaria said.