Underneath the ruins of Beach Baptist Church, neighborhood residents and elected officials attended an informational meeting about a proposed redevelopment plan for the Beach Baptist property. Most of the chatter had to do with a plan to plop an 8-story 40-unit condo building right on the edge of Estero Boulevard.
Beach Baptist Pastor Shawn Critser made a short opening announcement about his desire to work with the community and build a church on the property that would last the next 100 years. He then answered questions from concerned neighbors about the project as others who attended the meeting looked at pictures of the plans and shared their comments with the development team. A comment at the top of one of the big pads of paper summed up a lot of what people were talking about during the 3-hour session; “No 8-story condo building.”
The development team believes a project like this has a chance to be approved. They said one reason was when you drive up and down Estero Boulevard you see homes mixed in with condo buildings everywhere. They will now take the comments from the community and rework their plan before submitting the paperwork to the Local Planning Agency. Critser says he expects the proposal to go before the LPA next month for their initial consideration.
The Beach Baptist Church was completely destroyed by Hurricane Ian. The church did not have insurance. Critser would like to rebuild a church that seats 500 and add 36 work-force housing units that would be built above the church that the church would own and operate. Without insurance money to help rebuild, Critser’s plan is to trade some of the land to a developer who would then build the church free and clear.
That developer is Steve Collins out of Atlanta. Collins is the founder of SJ Collins Enterprises, a company he founded in 2007. You can view some of the projects Collins has built HERE, which include several Whole Foods Market’s across the country, including the location built in 2018 in Fort Myers.
In order to make the numbers work to rebuild the Beach Baptist Church, Collins says he needs to construct an 8-story 40-unit condo building on the property. Each unit would sell in the “multi-millions.” You can watch our interview with Collins from the meeting Thursday HERE. When we asked him how low he’d be willing to go with the condo building he did not have an answer. The original plan was for the building to be 13 stories. That was knocked down to 8 after initial meetings with local elected officials.
The 3.2 acres of church property is currently zoned Institutional and the plan put forth by this development team does not fit within the town’s current Land Development Code. Toward the end of the meeting Critser said he believed the feedback about the project was about 50-50. Councilman Bill Veach, who we also interviewed yesterday, and also lives in that neighborhood, said he’s herd from several long-time residents who told him they would sell their property if the project is approved.
You can watch our coverage of the entire event yesterday HERE which includes 2 interviews with Crister, everyone on the development team and Town Council members John King and Bill Veach.