The Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency Board of Commissioners unanimously approved conceptual plans for the city’s first pocket park at 2208 First St., next to The Franklin Shops.
The property was once home to a historic wood-frame building built in 1900 and later demolished in 2019. The building housed many restaurants throughout its years, the last being the popular Ida’s Bon Appiteatery.
AMA First Capital LLC, which owns the property, determined that redevelopment of the site will not happen in the near future and agreed to lease the property to the CRA to be developed as a public amenity. The CRA’s 15-year lease was approved by the CRA Commissioners on Dec. 14, 2022.
The vacant lot is in the planning stages of being used as a green space downtown. Features include a paver patio, public seating with tables and chairs, lighting, a public water fountain with a pet dish and an existing mural along the neighboring building.
The pocket park will also include decorative securable fencing and a space for temporary vendors.
“It’s a pretty open park plan,” said landscape architect Greg Diserio. “We want to keep it open for visibility and security purposes.”
The site also will have planned landscaping, including palm trees for canopy shading and other plants. The back wall will have more of a denser fence vegetation to help block off the parking lot in the rear, Diserio said.
The design is still conceptual, with there being some issues with the site as far as accessibility to the adjacent buildings.
Commissioners Darla Bonk and Liston Bochette had questions regarding the site and stormwater drainage.
City engineer Nicole Monahan said there is drainage that comes from the rear parking lot through the site. “There was a building here,” she said. “It’s no different, we’re just developing it with a different use. It’ll still be part of our drainage system. So, as they go from conceptual to final plans, the drainage features will be incorporated into the design.”
The project will be funded through a private donor, Fort Myers resident Debora Gillen, who also provided funding for planters along First Street.
“[She] is very much committed to beautifying downtown,” CRA Executive Director Michele Hylton-Terry said. “We’re very appreciative of her support.”
The next steps include naming the park, working with Naples Botanical Garden on plant selection and taking the plan to the city’s beautification and historic preservation committees in June.