Palmera on the River, a planned 239-unit multifamily community, was approved for an 18-month extension by the Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency Board of Commissioners.
The 2-acre vacant lot, 2543 First St., was undeveloped for several decades. Since the site is within walking distance of the downtown River District, it remains one of the city’s most valuable properties, commissioner Liston Bochette said.
The developer, Soho Sight LLC, was waiting for a building permit revision for construction of a new seawall before the project could move forward. Attorney Megan Strayhorn of Strayhorn, Persons-Mulicka and Fisher law firm, who represents the developer said a permit revision was approved by the city through written confirmation on March 17.
“It’s ready to be worked on,” Strayhorn said. “Unfortunately, the vertical construction cannot begin until that seawall gets replaced.”
The developer has owned the property since 2020 and cleared the site last week. Commissioner Darla Bonk asked why it was just recently cleared, with no work being done on the site pre-Hurricane Ian.
“Our project has gone up 50% from our initial tax increment financing requests and the banks are requiring more money down,” said Michael Mincberg, principal of Sight Development. “We had to just restrategize and we sold several properties. We were going to bring in a partner that we had an assignment request for who decided they didn’t want to move forward. So, we sold more properties and now we’re ready to move forward and that’s why you’re seeing site work being done.”
The project was awarded a tax increment rebate of $9.5 million in 2020. At the time, construction costs were estimated to be $56 million, with costs now estimated at about $85 million.
“Regardless of that, we’re not here asking for any additional [Tax Increment Financing] money,” Strayhorn said. “Just asking for a 90-day extension on the commencement date to allow for the contractors to come in and get started on that seawall, as well as an 18-month extension on the completion date.”
The project will continue the concept of a walkable community, including a public riverwalk easement to preserve the public’s access to the waterfront.
The completion date of the project shifted from Dec. 31, 2024 to June 30, 2026, with construction of the seawall expected to begin within the next 90 days.