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AC Marriott hotel planned for downtown Fort Myers

Melissa Montoya
Fort Myers News-Press
A rendering shows what a future AC Marriott Hotel in downtown Fort Myers could look like.

A new Marriott hotel is planned for downtown Fort Myers with help from the city's Community Redevelopment Agency. 

On Wednesday, city council members, who sit as commissioners on the redevelopment agency board, approved 5-0 a tax increment financing rebate for the project. Once the project is built, which is expected to be in 2022, the developer would keep 95% of the project's property taxes owed to the city up to $5.57 million. The remaining property taxes would pay for city improvements in the redevelopment district.

Those who voted in favor of the project, referred to as First Street Place LLC, were Mayor Randy Henderson and council members Johnny Streets, Kevin Anderson, Fred Burson and Gaile Anthony. Councilors Teresa Watkins Brown and Terolyn Watson were absent. 

The project is located at 2300 First Street, the corner of Jackson Street and First Street. In 2016, developer David Fry had asked for a 10-year, 95% tax rebate up to $2 million for the site as condominiums and shops known as The Place on First

On Wednesday, he instead made the case for a 132-room hotel, with projected cost of $28.8 million, that would be managed by the team already managing the Luminary, which opened Sept. 23. The hotel, he said, would be eight stories high with rooms on floors two through seven. The ground floor would be a bar.

"The rooftop, the plan is for this to be a lively entertainment center," Fry said. 

Check it out:The city of Fort Myers celebrates Luminary's opening

The project, according to Fry, will have an economic impact of $42.7 million and create 396 jobs during the construction phase. Once it's finished the economic impact would be $44.2 million and would create 350 jobs during its initial five years of operation. 

The hotel would be part of the AC banner of Marriott International, which includes upscale hotels that "celebrate the beauty of classic modern design with its European soul and Spanish roots," according to Marriott's website. 

"It's a really efficient hotel. It's a cool contemporary hotel," Fry said. "This gives you another destination in the downtown core."

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Fry said the management from the Luminary would have control of the 132 rooms, and the hotel could also act as a feeder hotel for conventions taking place at the Caloosa Sound Convention Center formerly known as Harborside. 

Fry said he had planned to present the project in February, but COVID-19 hit. Fry said he has not been able to receive financing because interest rates are too high, but he hopes to pursue it after a few months that show the hospitality industry is improving.

"These projects don't happen without significant risk," Fry said. "I brought this forward once before, and it cost me $1.7 million dollars because it didn’t work. I know there are people going to be talking about, 'You are going to be giving a bunch of money away.'

"If I was siting in your chair I would be scrutinizing numbers," he said. "I wish this was a slam dunk because I wouldn't have to be standing in front of you for a rebate."

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Fry also said he is willing to donate a fountain on his property to the city.

Arthur Hamel, a Fort Myers resident, said he opposes the project because it was not approved by the Historical Preservation Commission. The earlier version of the project for condos was approved, but not the hotel, he said. 

"TIF (tax increment financing) funding was originally for blighted areas," Hamel said. "Not what you have today."

"I think it's ill advised," he added. 

Regardless, the project was approved. 

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Streets, who represents Ward 2, told CRA Executive Director Michele Hylton-Terry he wanted to see projects in his area of town, which is made up of the Palm Beach Boulevard corridor. 

"Let's also be mindful, Michele, of trying to get investors to look at the east end of town plus finding affordable housing for people to work in our area," Streets said. 

Hylton-Terry said the hotel will make the convention center a success. 

"We need additional hotel rooms to have a real convention center, and this hotel puts us there," she said.