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New focus group meets to discuss Times Square Resorts

May 20, 2016
By John Morton (jmorton@breezenewspapers.com) , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Developer Tom Torgerson received his first dose of feedback Wednesday during a three-hour meeting with a small focus group he has assembled.

The seven-member group, which will meet privately, saw preliminary plans of what Torgerson now calls Times Square Resorts. The plans are not being released to the public.

The members are San Carlos Island resident Charlie Whitehead and Estero Island residents Tom and Annie Babcock, Joe and Tammy Stockton (parents of Summer Stockton, Fort Myers Beach's vice mayor), Jack Green and Jay Light (who was not in attendance). Several of these residents voiced their opposition to Torgerson's original plan, then called Grand Resorts.

Also present was island resident John Gucciardo, who is serving as a consultant for Torgerson.

Gucciardo said the new plan is about 40 percent of the size of the original plan. It will consist of two hotels and most likely between 300 and 400 guest rooms combined, Whitehead said.

One U-shaped hotel will be on the beach on the properties Torgerson owns that begin at where the Mermaid Lounge sits and ends where Crescent Beach Family Park begins. The park, which is owned by Lee County, was originally part of the Grand Resorts footprint.

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A second hotel will sit across the street where the former Helmerich Plaza sits.

Gone in the new plan are Torgerson's original desire to re-route Estero Boulevard while creating a combination boardwalk/seawall and pedestrian mall.

Whitehead said the plans also put more of a focus on hotel rooms rather than commercial-space opportunities.

"The plans did show the typical hotel ancillary things - such as each hotel having a restaurant in it," he said. "But that was about it."

The original plan had featured ground-level commercial space at the base of three hotels and a parking garage. Without a seawall, the new hotels will have to be built on stilts above ground to meet Federal Emergency Management Agency requirements.

The focus group will continue to meet informally. During the Grand Resorts process, Torgerson held four public presentations in four months, including three on Fort Myers Beach, that drew between 300 and 500 residents each meeting. The reaction was often negative.

On April 11, he decided to discontinue the process and go back to the drawing board.

Whitehead said Wednesday's meeting included discussions on what Torgerson had learned.

"He talked about how he had gotten the message that Grand Resorts was just too much," Whitehead said. "I think he learned a lot about the people here and what they want."

 
 

 

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