It was standing room only at the Pink Shell Resort Monday night as Fort Myers Beach residents and business owners listened to Ben Freeland and his team pitch their plan to redevelop Moss Marina from boat storage barn buildings into a 3-hotel waterfront community. At least one elected official we spoke to was unhappy with the presentation.
Freeland’s plans include 3 hotels with different price points, totaling 400 rooms, a 1,000-foot long community bay walk, a marina, bars, restaurants and shopping. His pitch to the community is that he will be opening up private property to the community, creating view corridors to the water and bringing back hundreds of “beds” that were lost due to Hurricane Ian. Thousands of hotel rooms and vacation rentals all over Lee County remain closed as a result of the storm.
Freeland told the packed crowd that there are three elements to making his project work: Is it a benefit to the neighbors? Is it a benefit to the business community and the island as a whole? Is it financially feasible? Freelend has said the 400 hotel rooms in his plan now is what makes the entire project financially feasible.
Freeland and his design team have been holding weeks of meetings with local officials and residents in the community to get feedback. It all culminated with the 2-hour long presentation last night. It was really the first time the community got to see detailed pictures and video of the vision they have for that area.
At some point, the plan will have to go before the town Local Planning Agency, then the Town Council to see if it aligns with the town’s Land Development Code and Comp Plan. One official we spoke to last night said, “They clearly did not listen or have any intention to listen to residents with this presentation.” Getting big projects approved on an island that incorporated in 1995 with a goal of trying to keep the community quaint, will make this project a very interesting one to watch when it comes time for government approvals. We all remember the hoops TPI had to jump through to get the Margaritaville project approved. Of course, Hurricane Ian puts an entirely new perspective on development on the island.
Many of the questions on the Beach Talk Radio live broadcast of the presentation last night had to do with traffic and parking, which is always a top concern of residents on the island. Freelend said they are going to provide more parking than what they are required to provide and they would encourage guests not to rent cars or drive to the hotels. There has also been a lot of banter about a water taxi to shuttle people up and down the island at a cost of $15 for the day.
Rick Hall, who’s worked on traffic studies and in transportation for decades, did a traffic analysis for this hotel and concluded that there would not be much volume and that “congestion would be dispersed throughout the day.” The development would be a short walk or bike ride from other restaurants, the beach and Times Square, however you can never really predict if a guest is going to rent a car or take an Uber until you have years of hard data.
Several times Freeland said that, if not this project, he would simply rebuild boat storage buildings. And he showed pictures of big, white, boxy buildings blocking the view of the water.
Fort Myers Beach was and should remain a family friendly beach . The proposal is not family friendly. It limits it to resort beach. Families have cars, parking, bikes, boats, cottages, schools, local shops, houses, rentals, and some low condo’s, not high risers. Remake with the streets filled like they use to be. It was plenty crowded always. 400 more is a no no. I lived their 8 years in the 90’s and traffic was worse than it was in the 2000’s. It improved and has since the beginning, but not with more high rise rentals. Sell to families. Not resorts. No more Miami’s please.
As a FM resident:IMO, change & growth is going to happen no question. No way around it with the real estate market increasing like it has post Ian. The island needs the revenue to support the town that has lost so many sources for revenue. The plan in place should be seriously considered. The sooner the better. It is one way to “ move on”, I’m sure this change is scary for those who already have endured so much. Best Wishes
Although I wasn’t able to attend the presentation, I’ve read article and comments. This is where our island is headed. It’s growth, big growth! Why not one of our own islanders get the jump on it before another commercial resort does? My opinion matches a few of the others as far as providing transportation to and from the airport. BUT! Contract local driving service for it!
Also, sell trips/adventures like every other resort we all have vacationed at does and offer discounts/coupons for local area attractions! Literally have a dedicated person making the reservations and taking payments. Edison, museums, historical sites and airboats are things to keep in mind for transportation and entry. Keep it local with our local boat tours, fishing, parasailing, paddle boarding , bikes, mopeds, etc…it will take a little work, but well worth putting our small island businesses and people back to work! I think by collaborating with local businesses it will be a big WIN-WIN for all?! I think this will be a great addition to the island and honestly, traffic is traffic when it comes to season. It is and will always be a pain in the butt!
I think the repeated threat of giant, view-blocking boat boxes is a rude tactic to getting our community’s support for this over-wrought project. The proposed ways of reducing vehicle traffic are based on whimsy and nonsense. We don’t need our delightful island to become the next Miami or Disney World.
And then comes the question: how much more time will be added for evacuation? (Don’t forget proposed development on San Carlos)
I suggest that all parking except for handicap, etc be off island and dedicated shuttles be used to get to the resort.
It’s a no brainer! Exactly what will help with the island being rebuilt and people coming back. Maybe it’s a little “large” but I totally agree with the vision….sure beats not trying to come up with something better that boat storage buildings
Definitely too big. Downsize it a bit and it could work. If these comments are correct regarding the tone of the meeting (veiled threats) then I am truly sad for what’s already starting to happen.
Sorry, but – just what this little Island needs – another Mega resort, 400 BEDS, really ?
Ohh, nobody is going to rent cars- Really ?
Water Taxi, nice idea, but as noted – too expensive !
Ohh yeah, parking – no problem, Where?Who cares about the traffic.
This would only create a massive traffic nightmare NORTH of Times Square.
Other Hotels/Resorts likely to come.
Concerned about “”rooms”” being lost due to the Hurricane – BUT – no one seems to care about the “”Residents”” lost due to the Hurricane !
Bigger Better Bridge – South End
This island has absolutely NO chance of recovering that peaceful, quaint little Island feel.
So sad ….
They always have to over ask because they will always end up with less! I am definitely in favor of the project and process getting going. No matter how it ends up, it’s going to be a very nice improvement for the island in many ways!
I totally agree!
Like the idea of free vouchers. Transportation to local sites. You could have small bus trips for people to go off island. Sounds really upscale but where will the workers live? Big problem price workers out of homes!!
I also thought this project is way too ambitious, the pictures looked like it’s going to be a small city. I understand you start big and make adjustments along the way but why not be realistic from the start and avoid lots of grief from the powers that be?
Also, when did we start calling the bridge the “Sky Bridge”? We’ve been here since 1995 and the bridge has always been called “Matanzas Pass Bridge”.
There it is again. Another developer has picked up on it.
‘Our hotels won’t create more traffic.’
The watchwords now for every developer turning an eye to the island less than a mile wide with only one main road.
Your right again Lee!
I think it is a great idea!! I support it 0%!
I love the water taxi, hotels, restaurants, grocery/convenience store ideas however, a $15 taxi ride PER PERSON for a family mid-island trying to get to down town is way too high! That pricing will definitely just make us locals and/or visitors go by car which defeats trying to alleviate traffic.
Why not suggest giving each renter a coupon for free transportation to and from the airport to promote walking around rather than driving around? Also, offer trips to the Ford Museum for the same reason.
No one likes to be threatened. Suggestion for the Freeland group: Throughout the upcoming long, tedious and burdensome negotiations with the Town it would behoove the developer to be as open minded, flexible, level headed as TPI was with their Margaritaville negotiations.
I was just shocked by the presentation and his threats. This project could be scaled down and work well and they will still make far more money than their boat barns. Dropping 400 rooms x ? people per room with their cars is a logistical nightmare. They only take a few stabs at remedying that situation, with no explanation of how those remedies are going to transpire or who is paying for them. They are providing no employee housing or parking?? We need families on the island. Kids in our school. This is not what is best for the island but could be scaled to be profitable for owners and preserve some quaint island hotels/shops.
I completely agree, at some points he seemed to be threatening saying “it’s this or do you want big boat sheds”. I found it to be uneasy listening to them present.
I didn’t take the boat barns as a threat! I did hear him ask if they would rather see the boat barns or the water view. See the vision people and don’t over assume what was said.
I see nothing quaint about this project. Whether the issue of contention is size, noise, crowds or traffic, what concerns those of us who hold FMB special and unique is that projects like this and Margaritaville will make it just like every other Florida beach town.
As a popular TV personality once said …
“Are you threatening me?”
Why are we asking if it too big.? That was not the main concern at the meeting. Traffic was; the same traffic problem the island has had since the 1970s. Arches Bayfront address that issues intently.
The development is perfect size for the back bay. The combination of Arches, chapel, and water taxis will make Fort Myers Beach the Venice Italy of America. It celebrates our history in a way no other development has.
We lost rooms, we lost Arches this replaces them in a well thought out way. It was a super presentation. Bravo Arches Bayfront. Malto Bella!
“Too big” encompasses all of those things. Size, density, number of rooms, traffic, height. No offense but the question asked is a good question, no harm done. And a valid one. It’ll be a question that’s asked for every single, big development that’s proposed on this little bitty island.