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TPI-FMB: Next steps

With Council approval in hand, developer Tom Torgerson moves on to “phase 2.”

May 30, 2018
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Last week, TPI Hospitality secured its unanimous approval from the Fort Myers Beach Town Council.

Now, what's next for the 254-room resort hotel, aquatic venue and restaurant development?

It will be several months until the visitors and residents of Fort Myers Beach see any action on the TPI-FMB property, said John Gucciardo, the spokesman for the development.

In an email, developer Tom Torgerson said the construction timeline has a start date of Dec. 1.

There's still plenty to do between now and then. Developer Tom Torgerson and the TPI-FMB team sat down the day after the council meeting to start hashing out details of designing the project and setting a schedule in a five-hour meeting with construction contractor DeAngelis Diamond of Naples.

"There's no gap in his timeline," Gucciardo said.

Torgerson also is getting to work with Lee County and the Florida Department of Transportation. An integral part of the resort is a pedestrian bridge over Estero Boulevard connecting the bayside property to the beach. It will also be open to the public to use instead of crossing the street. But since Lee County owns Estero Boulevard, Torgerson needs its approval before the bridge can go up.

In addition, the team is working with FDOT to make sure the pedestrian bridge will mesh with any of the traffic alleviation ideas that FDOT has been working on, Gucciardo said.

FDOT has proposes several solutions in the area near where the pedestrian bridge would go, such as a traffic light. The state agency has been working on traffic solutions for San Carlos Boulevard and the base of the bridge for several years, and TPI-FMB doesn't intend to get in the way of that. Gucciardo says the development team is reaching out now to see if there could be any potential conflicts, and resolve them now.

"With the state, it's coordination. With the county, it's a matter of both, coordination and a formal sign-off," Gucciardo said.

The council approved the development with the pedestrian bridge, and Anita Cereceda, Bruce Butcher and Shamp agreed to advocate to the county to approve the bridge, too.

The pedestrian bridge will need a limited development order granted by the county; it will not have to go a formal public hearing process like the rest of the project did at the town level. The developer is working with the construction and architectural contractors to mock up the bridge design before it formally applies to the county, Gucciardo said.

The only physical modification to be done before January is the demolition of the Ocean Jewel building at the base of the bridge: it will go down by Sept. 30.

"Part of (town council's) conditioning was to have that done sooner," Gucciardo said.

Vice Mayor Joanne Shamp asked developer Tom Torgerson at the May 21 meeting to remove the Ocean Jewels building from the property before the beginning of season, so visitors and returning residents can enjoy the extended view of the Gulf as they descend the bridge. The town will also be gifted the property from TPI-FMB at a later date.

The Ocean Jewels building currently houses the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, which just moved in last year. Now, President Jacki Liszak is on the hunt for a new location for the island's business center.

"I'm used to moving," she said.

Other businesses in operation within the TPI-FMB footprint will also have to start looking for a new home. Helmerich Plaza is home to Island Life Realty, Quicky Scooters & Bikes, Nick's Beach Discount Liquor and Wine, and Sunny's on the Beach t-shirt shop. Across the street is The Cigar Hut and the Mermaid Lounge.

"They all know they're on a month to month lease," Gucciardo said.

The building that houses the Cigar Hut is remaining, but it's being converted into the restroom and showers facility for the future aquatic venue.

The Salty Crab is owned by TPI Hospitality, but it will also remain.

Island developer Joe Orlandini owns The Mermaid Lounge. It's his plan to save the business - and the whole building - by picking it up and moving it down the street. The Mermaid building has been on the tax role since 1954.

Orlandini said he's working on getting a permit from the town to move it the building from its current address at 1204 Estero Blvd. to his other property at 1510 Estero Blvd., the site of the old Sunoco gas station.

He's moved buildings before on his own - last year, he put a historic cottage on a trailer and hauled it over the Matanzas Pass Bridge. But this time, he's going with a building moving company to lug the concrete bar down the road.

"It's a totally different deal than the cottage," he said. "People have looked at it and told me they can do it."

It will remain in one piece when it makes its move, and Orlandini is determined to save it in one piece.

"It's kind of an iconic building to the island. It's got a lot of history," he said.

Once building begins in January, Gucciardo says it will take at least, in not more than, a year to finish building and open up shop.

Outside of construction, Torgerson agreed to set up a "good neighbor" plan to keep a line of communication open with with the residential neighbors. It was something he'd already been doing with conversations among Crescent Street residents like Joe and Doris Grant, but Shamp asked him to extend the radius to include Primo Drive, as well. Gucciardo said the next formal meeting would be scheduled in the fall, closer to time when neighbors will start seeing real activity on the property.

"There's still quite a bit to do," Gucciardo said. "At this point, there's no opening date in mind"



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