Inside The Proposed New Whale Restaurant

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Dawn and Mike Miller had only owned The Whale on Estero Boulevard for four months before it was wiped off the face of the earth. They had big ideas to improve the popular Fort Myers Beach restaurant. Hurricane Ian had bigger plans, totally destroying it in the blink of any eye.

On Tuesday, the Miller’s will present their plans for a new Whale to the Local Planning Agency. They’re going to need a couple of variances from the town if their plans to build a new Whale will become a reality. The proposal is for a building that is 3 floors (the original was 2) and 36 feet high.

Here’s where the Miller’s will need some help…

The current code requires The Whale to have 51 parking spaces. The owner’s will be asking the LPA to drop that number to 18. Before Ian, The Whale had 18 parking spaces.

The current code for that location also only allows for a maximum of 30 feet above base flood elevation and a building that is 2 stories high. The building could be built without enclosed space on the first floor, and be three stories high, however, the code says it could still only be 30 feet above base flood elevation.

Rendering of the first floor of the new Whale

The Miller’s will request a variance from the LPA and Town Council to reduce the number of parking spots they need to 18 and allow them to build a building that is 2 stories over base flood elevation, with enclosed space on the first floor, but allow them to go up 36 feet.

The Miller’s say the wording of the Fort Myers Beach Land Development Code is not clear as to the purpose of the restriction on number of stories versus overall height and that the site’s shape is highly irregular making normal and code compliant development impossible.

Rendering of the second floor of the new Whale

The LPA meets Tuesday at 9AM and we will carry the meeting live on our Facebook and YouTube pages.

Rendering of the third floor of the new Whale

45 COMMENTS

  1. It amazes me how the “locals” who moved onto a vacationing island spot always seem to think no business or non resident should cross those bridges. You moved onto an island in Florida!!! And if you want a parking lot or to have nothing put back up buy the property turn it into a flower garden or whatever you think it should be, roast marshmallows and sing kumbaya. Don’t be a hater because you haven’t got the money to do what others do. Ask them how did you get your money. How can I buy that property. Jealousy is amazingly cruel.

  2. I believe in setting realistic codes and the powers that be follow these codes. Stop developing codes snd then allowing variances. Everyone follows the same rules.

  3. As a 77 year old tourist .. we park our car at our hotel or timeshare and then walk everywhere we go .. When the Tram is running we can go a little farther. Best wishes Dawn, we hope the hill isn’t too steep for your project. 🙏🤞

  4. Do the people on this island not use Uber or Lyft? Would not this solve so much of the parking problems at all new and old businesses? 🤷🏼‍♀️

    • Uber and lyft are not available like in normal neighborhoods. Because we have heavy traffic. As an island resident and business owner I want to help with parking. I also want to remind folks that small business owners are not responsible for parking for folks going to the beach or other commercial properties.

  5. Except for all the “tourists” staying around Times Square who can walk/bike around – sure, less parking – no problem. But, what about people coming from the South End … no parking, no business.

    • We also live on the south end and I promise if we had a solution we would do it. We will continue to look for solutions and how we can help!

  6. Less available parking actually encourages ideas like DRAC being proposed by Jim Atterholt. If you want to hang out around and in Times Square and areas in close proximity, biking and walking should be encouraged by limited availability for parking cars. If retail businesses and food establishments are forced to provide ample parking, it encourages people to use a car. If there is limited parking, it will be more convenient not to use a car. Simply put, humans are inherently lazy and do what is the easiest.

  7. I don’t see how 51 spots would even fit on their lot even if the whole bottom floor was parking. And having the whole bottom floor be parking does not contribute to a great feel for the town. But 18 spaces probably only covers their staff (if that). Maybe businesses that can not meet parking requirements could have an annual fee towards the town’s public transportation fund instead. Plans look great. I hope they let them have the bottom floor.

      • Dawn, have you all looked into the, seemingly under used, park and ride that the bus company built a few years ago ? I know it can’t be used by a single entity but if it were more widely used, parking requirements wouldn’t be as demanding ..

  8. Can’t say it any better than Jim Hockett! So excited about the new Whale getting started. Dawn and Mike are a true asset to the community….the island needs more projects like theirs that are of benefit for the town economy and jobs for locals.

    • Thank you and I promise we love our island and feel blessed to be in the situation to save what we want to keep as our island vibe!

  9. In respect to the 51 parking spaces, I know it would be hard to monitor, but there may be a way to do it. It it doubtful that the Whale will need all 51 spots all the time for their customers. How about a primary lot for the customers and an “overflow ” lot that can be used by beachgoers as well?

  10. We dont need more parking spaces if the towns new vision
    Free bikes for rental tenants.
    The height seems fine because the new code my house needs to be 15 ft above sea level and when you add in the engineering my 1st floor will start at 21 ft

  11. Parking for smaller businesses on Estero should be reduced or not even be required if they are within a short distance of a private parking lot , and with the no change to the comp plan and difficultly to rebuild we need to encourage folks like the Millers to rebuild ! Why isn’t the town looking at a overall parking solution and ways to encourage small businesses to Rebuild vs asking for public benefits ( larger businesses yes) but after such a devastation ! Our public benefits will be having bar, restaurants and shop to go !
    The public benefit

  12. 1. If the rich, elite few get to have all the variances, what do the locals get?
    2. Where do the variant requests stop? If You Give A Mouse A Cookie….? Back-ups in paperwork, staff time, meetings, delays in openings, unnecessary, unfair, unreasonable requests and precedents that never end.
    3. The new rules and regulations were adopted for a reason. Safety for patrons and staff, accessibility for safe parking, protecting the view of property owners around other property owners.
    4. All for one and one for all.
    5. Bigger isn’t better in these cases.

    • 1. Mike and I are locals. What do other locals get? Locals get The Whale back. An iconic restaurant that will always have the old island vibe that we fell in love with. What exactly are you wanting or what are you losing by having our building rebuilt?
      2. The building we are proposing is shorter than several new homes in the neighborhood and shorter than Margaritaville.
      3. We are in no way proposing anything that isn’t safe for patrons and staff. We will have accessible parking, ramps and an elevator. Not sure what view you are worried about as we are not on the beach. 4. We are all for our island! If we were for ourselves, we could have sold the day after Ian and made money. I believe 100% The Whale needs to be rebuilt and it is in our ownership because we love our island vibe. 5. Bigger not at all….same footprint just adding a floor to use for enclosed entertainment. I am open for discussion at any time. This building is aesthetically pleasing and has sound absorption for the benefit of our neighbors. We will have beautiful landscaping for our residential neighbors as well as Estero Blvd with many royal palms (my favorite). We have supported our island residents in every way possible. The other option is that we put the property up for sale and it gets gobbled up for several floors of condos or another hotel. This is not at all what we would want to do. I encourage you to look at this more open-minded and recognize that we are trying to help keep the local island vibe. Also, learn more about the commercial development process. I think if you took the time you might be more supportive of our plans. Reach out any time.

      • Dawn,
        As a previous business owner, sometimes it’s hard for people to understand that no matter what you build or buy, it has to be able to be profitable. There are employees, supplies and of course taxes to pay before you put a single penny in your own pocket.

  13. Public parking has been an enormous issue since they tore down the Old McDonalds buildings. Public parking was great there for the local beach goers. While 18 spaces seemed adequate for the Old Beach Whale, now the majority of us locals have no where to park. We need more beach and more parking for the locals. If we had more places to park the 18 parking spaces would be a mute point. Please keep the locals in mind as you develop, not just the tourists.

    • As a local why would I drive to this area! We should all be on our bikes or using the trolley , parking is expensive and short supply but why isn’t the Town looking at long term community solutions , small businesses don’t have the land space to meet parking requirements!

  14. Looks absolutely awesome! Hopefully these hometown folks will be able to rebuild the Whale. FMBeacher’s are slowly but surely getting it done

  15. If they use the ground floor as parking then have 2 stories above it , they would have a good chance at getting that needed variance.

  16. Here’s hoping they don’t beat this to death for months on end. The sooner FMB gets building, the better for everyone. This couple has the time, money and will to build a badly needed restaurant. Help them make it a realty!

  17. It’s exciting that local owners and residents like the Millers are willing to invest so heavily into the Island with this property rebuild, and the upcoming new Sandy Bottoms restaurant down the street. In my opinion, these are very reasonable requests for a property at this location. It’s a restaurant targeted at visitors staying on the Island and the parking strategy aligns perfectly with the recently proposed DRAC strategy suggested by Jim Atterholt. The 36 ft height has zero negative impact to the community and will allow them to maintain an architecturally pleasing design instead of forcing developers to use flat roofs or shorter ceiling heights just to squeeze in the necessary density. The public benefit of a restaurant of this size and and stature far exceeds any negative perceptions by the anti-development people who argue the Town should be stringent on any exceptions. The Council should help all of us by quickly approving these types of reasonable redevelopment requests and accelerate putting our community back on its feet. That is the only responsible thing to do.

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