What’s Next For Chapel By The Sea?


It’s one of those buildings on Estero Boulevard that is a vivid reminder of how Hurricane Ian decimated structures on Fort Myers Beach on year ago. The popular church located right next to Town Hall boasted nearly 100 members pre-Ian. What’s the plan for the church moving forward?

One year later Chapel By The Sea has been untouched. Wires are still dangling inside the building. Pieces of the concrete floor are sunken in. Weeds are starting to creep up around the outside of the building.

Tom Means is the co-chair of buildings and properties at the church. He tells Beach Talk Radio News that the church is still working with an architect and contractor to see if the building can be repaired under FEMA’s 50% rule.
If repairs cannot be made, the congregation will have to decide if they want to knock down the buildings and build a smaller church, perhaps selling off a few of the lots they have around the church. Means says they are a month or two from making any final decisions.

Means says he’s been told that the structure is safe, that the foundation, beams and steel are all sound. One estimate the church received for repairs was about $3 million. The church was insured and they did very well with their insurance companies, according to Means.
There are now about 25-30 members of the Chapel By The Sea congregation that meet weekly at Cypress Lake Presbyterian Church on McGregor. Means says there is still a solid group of people from the church that are planning to have some kind of presence on Fort Myers Beach.


  1. How about we just start with the structures being torn down. Can the uninsured church at least get that done? Seeing the town council pass something requiring churches being insured would be nice in the future. If someone is hurt at this point messing around in the debris, like curious kids exploring are they insured for this? Nonprofits applying for for kinds of grants for homeless, meals, food pantry etc but no insurance. Trainwreck allowed to happen by FMB and Lee Co.

  2. What makes a community? Churches are an important part of community along with schools, businesses etc. It seems we may need to help our churches make a comeback. I hope Chapel returns. I hope the Catholic Church returns. I have heard the Catholic Church will be rebuilding. I hope we have our churches back. Many on the island do attend church. Chapel had a great outreach program. May God bless and help our churches in their return. I miss the 6 pm music from the Catholic Church!

    • I believe there were 7 churches on the island and the island is 7 miles long. I also believe that I had read the average number of people that belong to the chuches is 40. I am sure the Catholic Church, during season is higher than that. Financially it just is just not viable for each church to rebuild for 40 people to attend and hope those 40 can carry the financial burden of the church. The churches could all sell their land and join their communities on the Catholic Church land. That huge plot of land could allow many smaller structures to be built and it could be shared. Unfortunately as time goes on, less and less people will go to church. I am assuming but the majority of younger people do not attend church, that’s a fact. So building one church community would be a wiser financial decision and surely could accomodate all the various church communities. I realize many older people don’t want change nor do they want to have to travel a little further if they still attend church, but this is a financial decision and 40 church members cannot support an entire church’s budget and I can promise you that the good Lord will not be the one demanding a bunch of huge churches be built in his name. The Catholic Church’s land is 14.95 acres. That is more than enough to accomodate all of the churches.

      • No thanks. I find the 14.5 acres as a quite serene meditation spot (especially the stations of the cross around the pond). The tranquility provides a special place far removed from the party scene that will intensify as Margaritaville opens. Turning the Catholic Church property into a “strip mall” of community churches drags Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, traffic to a focal point that cannot be sustained. Try making a left turn out of the Catholic Church property. The consolidation of churches the various activities and fundraisers of each church creates a “county fair” environ of worship. If the “community churches” decided on no insurance, then downsizing are the consequences. I had no insurance and dealt with it solo. No doubt church communities of 50+ parishioners should even be better prepared to rebuild. Why ruin the only pastoral property on the island.

    • God never left the island, nor anywhere else. So as not to interfere with any church’s services held on Sunday, the Faith Center Church is holding Saturday afternoon services (4:30) at the Mound House.

  3. I thought there was a plan to sell the property to developers for condos and the developer, in turn ,would build a smaller church as a part of the deal. Is that off the table?


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