The Hilton Tempo, a hotel project planned for 2300 First St. in downtown Fort Myers, asked the city’s community redevelopment agency for a year extension on its construction start date, originally slated for this September.
The developer, ERES Capital, requested the construction be moved to September 2023, with an expected completion date of December 2024.
The project was previously intended to be a Marriott but since January 2022 has new ownership and acquired approval of the Hilton Hotel franchise. Community Redevelopment Agency Commissioner and Fort Myers City Council member Liston Bochette was concerned about a drop-off in quality and ranking due to the change of brands.
Harley Sisler, vice president of ERES Capital assured council the shift to Hilton Tempo would be on the same level as or higher than Marriott AC.
“It’s upscale select service,” Sisler said. “If you look at it from kind of a comparison standpoint, you all are familiar with the Marriott AC. In my opinion, it’s a higher quality design than the Marriott AC, what was originally presented. It ranks just below the Luminary Hotel, on par with the AC.”
Sisler said the switch to Hilton gives the developers more flexibility when it comes to the design, allowing them to tailor it better to Fort Myers.
Since ERES acquired the property in January and received approval from Hilton, the developer formally engaged its architects, interior designers, engineers and project management team to help in the design and construction of the project. The floor plate, the tower—laid out on a floor-by-floor basis—and an exterior rendering and elevation has been designed so far.
The number of rooms in the hotel will increase from 132 to 140.
The project is expected to benefit the city from construction to far beyond completion. The total economic impact, from inception through the end of year five of operations, is close to $87 million with 745 jobs, according to Gerald Hendry of Maxwell Hendry Simmons Real Estate Appraisers and Consultants.
The extension request came about due to substantial hurdles surrounding the project, including the re-approval for the current Planned Urban Development, approval from the Historic Preservation Counsel, the city’s current water challenges and a change in the project’s flood zone.
“I don’t mean to complain,” Sisler said. “I hope it doesn’t come across that way. I’m big on not making my challenges your challenges, but I do appreciate the time and consideration for the extension.”
CRA commissioner and city council member Darla Bonk said she had some pretty hefty concerns regarding the project.
“Since we’ve approved this before, we now have new ownership. We now change this hotel from a Marriott to a Hilton Tempo,” Bonk said. “We’ve got to get new approval through the HPC. The flood zone has changed. I don’t think it’s just a year extension. I think we’re talking about a completely new project, and I have grave concerns that we’re not looking at it that way.”
Despite Bonk’s hesitations about the project, the CRA voted to approve the year extension, with Bonk being the one nay vote.