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TPI Hospitality unveils new Times Square Resort plans

The developer hopes to make a formal application to the town in December.

November 7, 2016
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Gone are the four urban-style hotels, parking garage and conference center of the strongly-opposed Grand Resorts.

TPI Hospitality CEO and developer Tom Torgerson brought forward a much quieter plan to the Fort Myers Beach Town Council for his properties along Estero Boulevard.

This plan has been collectively referred to as Times Square Resorts, but the two major business components of the project are free-standing from one another.

Project consultant and former deputy town manager John Gucciardo brought forward renderings and conceptual site plans that call for one 330-room resort hotel with ground-level parking and a potential public transit hub on bayside Estero Boulevard and a public-access pedestrian overpass that encourages walking from the bayside of Estero Boulevard safely over to the beach.

On the beachside of Torgerson's property, Gucciardo showed plans for a public restaurant and bar next to the Salty Crab; an open pedestrian beach access and a metered Canal Street with beach access.

Between these accesses, Torgerson's site plans show an open-air "beach club," an admission-based venue with a lazy river and pool, cabanas for rent and an internal restaurant and bar.

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"This isn't an amenity for the resort guests," Gucciardo clarified. "They would have to buy a ticket like anyone else."

The plans presented addressed some of the major concerns residents and business owners expressed from his last plan. The height of this project will stay within town and county regulations; Crescent Street Park will remain unaltered;Estero Boulevard will keep its currect trajectory; and the new layout will not create a canyon effect from building mass.

"We want to give you a vision of where it is we're trying to go and get an idea if it is appropriate or not," Gucciardo said. "People acknowledge that something needs to go there."

A statement that was followed by a quiet hum of agreeance, it was one of the only sounds heard from the audience during his presentation.

Since the item was only a presentation at a workshop, no public comment was taken on the plans. Mayor Dennis Boback also asked the council- based on a recommendation he received in an ethics class that he, Tracey Gore, and Summer Stockton attended - that his colleagues not give an opinion about the project, just ask questions.

The Times Square Resorts plan is currently hinging on Lee County, which is why the developer has not yet made a formal application to the town.

The area on which the resort would be built, a rough triangle between 5th Street, Estero Boulevard and Crescent Street, is currently home to three plazas: Seafarers, Ocean Jewels and Helmerich Plaza. Lee County still owns Seafarers Plaza along Estero. However, Gucciardo said that Torgerson is hoping to make a same-value trade with the county to give them the Ocean Jewels piece for an equal-value portion of Seafarers.

The Ocean Jewel portion is a piece of property that is the first property on the left at the base of Matanzas Pass the bridge. Gucciardo said if the trade is made, that part of land would become public and if any future improvements were made to Estero Boulevard, Lee County would have ownership. If the county won't make the trade, the resort will be built within that area instead, which will prevent any future changes to that area.

"Once we have a building on it, they can't do anything," he said. "We'd rather get it into public ownership."

Torgerson will make the formal request about the land exchange to the county within the next few days. If the county accepts, Gucciardo said TPI would most likely make a full application to the town in the beginning of December.

More than 60 people packed the chambers to see the new plan, but for a handful, the new ideas came as no surprise. Torgerson has been working with a committee of former project opponents to create a concept that was more acceptable to the community.

"It's substantially what we saw," said beach resident and committee member Jack Green. "He's moving in the right direction."



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