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Chamber moves to former Ocean Jewel building

May 31, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce is now part of the gateway to the beach community.

After three years in Key Estero Shops, the Chamber has moved locations to the former Ocean Jewel building at the base of the bridge.

The building is owned by Tom Torgerson and is part of the TPI Hospitality property. Torgerson's most recent site plans for the Times Square development project showed Ocean Jewel becoming a hotel-related retail store.

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The former Ocean Jewel building has been empty for several years.

For the time being, however, since the project is still in staff review, the Chamber will provide a visitors center and exposure to the island and area's business community.

"It's great visibility," said Chamber President Jacki Liszak. "It will be a central hub for businesses and island info."

The new building has more space to spread out than the Chamber's suite at Key Estero Shops. Liszak said the Chamber is working with the Fort Myers Beach Art Association to have a rotating gallery in the new bureau, and a side porch will add an outdoor area for members or visitors to hang out. The new location will also have wifi set up.

"Everybody is pretty excited," she said. "It's a total positive for the Chamber."

Liszak is particularly excited that the Chamber will now be the first thing visitors and residents alike see as they cross the Matanzas Pass Bridge. She said it's what people expect and where it's supposed to be; the Sanibel Captiva Chamber is the first thing on land on the Sanibel causeway.

The placement will give the Chamber's businesses excellent exposure from both walk-ins and large, lit window display ads.

The Chamber moved in Saturday and is working on upgrades to the inside. Liszak hoped to open this week but there's no date firm; the white paint on the large windows will be the last thing to go to keep the curious from peeking. The parking situation is still being worked out; there are no dedicated parking spaces in front of Ocean Jewel, so the Chamber is working to lease spaces from somewhere nearby. Liszak warns visitors not to park on the sidewalk to visit the new Chamber home - "you'll get ticketed," she said.

Liszak and the board decided to move the Chamber to a new location several months ago after a new owner bought Key Estero Shops and raised the rent. During the May membership meeting, Liszak told Chamber members it was in the best interest of the organization's health to find a new landlord.

With TPI's original plans for the Ocean Jewel building, the Chamber's long-term future there may be uncertain. However, it will likely be months before the development application is voted in or out by the Fort Myers Beach Town Council and a year before shovels would actually hit the ground if approved. Liszak hopes, however, the Chamber will get to stay.

"I hope this turns out to be a great partnership and I hope to keep it there," she said.

The Chamber is planning an open house and ribbon cutting in mid-June.



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