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Guest commentary: Atterholt sees renaissance on Fort Myers Beach

By Staff | Jan 21, 2021

Fort Myers Beach Councilmember Jim Atterholt says Fort Myers Beach is in the midst of a renaissance / File photo by Nathan Mayberg

Since being elected to the Fort Myers Beach Town Council in March of 2020, I have had a front row seat to a wide variety of major changes that are either ongoing or are about to occur on our island. As we all work to get through COVID 19, there is much to be hopeful about with respect to the direction of our island. Many of the past leaders in our community are responsible for providing the vision for what I like to call our island renaissance. The challenge before the current Town Council is to manage the change wisely and keep things moving forward. These projects have individually received a great deal of attention but they rarely have been considered in their entirety.

The most obvious change has been the County’s renovation of our Estero Boulevard. The County is infusing $79.7 million in a new road surface, bike lanes and sidewalks for our island. These enhanced bike lanes and both new and improved sidewalks will hopefully help folks to leave their cars at home and help with traffic. This project, coupled with the Town’s infusion of $60 million for new storm water and drinking water infrastructure make this very significant. This all is expected to be completed at the end of 2021 and then, upon its completion, a new $55 million county bridge will begin construction at the South end of the island. The new bridge will be built adjacent to the old bridge and when completed, the old bridge will be torn down. The new bridge will be high enough that it will not need to raise when a tall boat attempts to pass through.

The Town of Fort Myers Beach is currently working on significant renovation plans for Times Square, Bay Oaks Community Center and Bayside Park. The State, County and Town are currently in discussions to adjust traffic flows at the foot of the bridge on the North end of the island. This will be another significant change to our island that is still in the developmental stage. On the private sector front, the new Margarittaville project is expected to break ground in April of this year on roughly seven acres near Times Square filling empty lots left by the destruction of Hurricane Charlie years ago. This 254-room resort will be connected from the Gulf to the Bay via an enclosed pedestrian bridge over Estero Blvd. It is expected to take two years to fully construct and will bring new restaurants and other amenities to our island.

While serving as Chief of Staff to the Governor of Indiana, I saw first-hand how economic development projects helped to create jobs, attract tourists and enhance property values. But let’s not overlook how these projects will also enhance the quality of life for those who make our island their home. Although there will continue to be a healthy discussion of these projects as we move forward, it is clear they will have a huge transformative impact on our island. During these difficult times, it is my hope that this up-and-coming island renaissance will bring us together and help us to be encouraged for the future.

Jim Atterholt

Town of Fort Myers Beach Councilmember