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Fort Myers City Council Debates and Delays the Preservation of Mid-Century Historic Buildings Near Downtown Fort Myers

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Fort Myers city council member Liston Bochette is urging the city to protect its largest collection of midcentury historic buildings.

“We need to immediately move to protect anything,” Bochette said. “Because sales are going on now and I speak with great confidence that there’s a look to alter the landscape from Five Points up to the Edison and Ford Winter Estates.”

Five points and the Estates are located southwest of downtown.

Bochette expressed fear of development that has been moving into that area getting out of hand and ruining the property’s integrity.

Bochette first asked for a temporary moratorium against all sales and new development, allowing time for staff and advisory boards to look at historic significance and begin planning to protect McGregor boulevard from over commercialization.

Council member Fred Burson expressed confusion with Bochette’s presentation. Bochette had opened with a report of traffic accidents outside of the Estates on McGregor. Burson asked for clarity multiple times during this discussion.

“I’m not trying to be difficult with you here,” Burson said. “I’m all for making McGregor Boulevard historic all the way to the city limits but I don’t know that stopping new development does anything to keep people from driving recklessly.”

Bochette clarified that he highlighted road safety in order to spotlight the high traffic and growth of downtown and to indicate how this might expand into other parts of the city.

“I think you're well intentioned,” Burson said. “It seems we’re mixing apples and oranges to me.”

According to Bochette, the issue at hand is the protection of midcentury buildings along McGregor that contributes to the heritage and culture of the city. 

Some of the midcentury buildings are the David Plumber building, the Hibiscus House Bed and Breakfast, and the Miles building. All these buildings sit along McGregor between Five Points and the Estates.

“These buildings are very distinct in their style,” said Gina Sabiston, Chair of the Historic Preservation Commision (HPC). “They represent a period of growth in our community from the ’40s to the ’60s when Fort Myers was coming into its own.”

Eventually, council member Bochette simplified his motion to expand the downtown historic zone from Five Points to the Estates.

Mayor Anderson expressed hesitation about the move.

“I don’t think it’s something that we can act on tonight,” Anderson said. “We need a presentation from city staff and HPC. This is a big decision and something we can’t rush too quickly into.”

Ultimately, the council voted to direct staff, the city manager, and the committees to bring back to them a study on extending the downtown historic zone from Five Points to the Estates.