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Town council sends Times Square, Bayside Park projects to bid

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | Feb 10, 2021

The new Bayside Park plans approved by town council will include these shade sails. / Photo provided

The Town of Fort Myers Beach Council approved the forwarding of design plans for its Times Square and Bayside Park renovation plans to the construction bidding phase while giving themselves a year to discuss certain aspects of the project at Times Square.

The plans include sails for Times Square and a new look for Bayside Park with shade sails. The two projects have a combined construction cost of approximately $5 million plus engineering fees, according to estimates provided to the town by its design and engineering consultants DRMP.

The town will also be upgrading the water and sewer lines at Times Square, which will be funded separately, Town of Fort Myers Beach Manager Roger Hernstadt said.

The town council generally supported the plans though it remains split on whether Times Square should have a 50-foot sail or FMB selfie sign.

Paul Benvie of DRMP, said the consultants heard concerns about the 50-foot sails disrupting views and drew up plans to make the sails mobile so that the town could move it at different times. He said the FMB sign could also be mobile and used for special occasions.

Nervous Nellie's co-owner Tyler Lemmer opposes the replacement of the gazebo at the adjacent Bayside Park for a stage. / Photo provided

The timeline of construction for Times Square is in question as some merchants at Times Square would like to wait a year to do the project over concerns there could be disruption to their businesses as a result of the work, Hernstadt said.

Hernstadt said the bidding process would ask contractors to hold their bid for a year while the town irons out some details and applies for grants.

The 50-feet high sails have drawn mixed reactions from councilmembers and the public.

“That gives us another year to to talk about the sails,” said Mayor Ray Murphy.

Veach asked for consensus that the council doesn’t want the sails.

This proposed 50-feet high sail for the Times Square renovation project has drawn mixed reviews and opions from the public and council. / Photo provided

Councilmember Dan Allers said “that’s not necessarily something that’s going to hold this up. Whether they are going to go up there or not, does not necessarily have to be decided right now. The infrastructure will be there should they go up or not go up.”

Veach said people are going to “look at the designs going, ‘are you obsessed with the fact that the sails are on these drawings?'”

“It gives me pause,” Atterholt said. “It seems like if it’s going to be a year away. It would be nice to have how we want it designed to be the public face of this project for the next year. I will support the will of the council on that.”

Hernstadt said the construction bids can determine the cost of the sails, which can be removed later.

Selfies, shades and sails

Opinions about this "FMB" selfie spot for Times Square Park has gotten a mixed response among council and the public.

Atterholt said he liked using the FMB selfie logo as a backdrop for the stage. Benvie said the logo could be reduced in size.

Atterholt said he didn’t want to block the view of the water.

“The Gulf is everything. It is spectacular,” Atterholt said.

Veach said he didn’t think the FMB sign would block the sunset and would be a “great marketing thing for the town” that people would like to use for selfie photographs.

A new clock would go near the selfie spot featuring large block letters spelling out FMB near the ramps closest to the businesses at the nexus of Lynn Hall Memorial Park and Times Square. A permanent stage would go nearby.

The Times Square plans include shade sail coverings for businesses, which would protect outdoor seating. Those seem to be popular though the cost has been estimated at about $1 million.

Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce President Jacki Liszak said she liked both projects, in particular the shade coverings at Times Square.

“I think it’s awesome. I think we need to do them,” Liszak said of the two projects.

Liszak cautioned against waiting a year on the Times Square project, as it could run against the middle of the construction of Margaritaville, creating further traffic issues.

Liszak said she preferred the shade cover sails for the businesses covering the tables over the larger 50-foot sail. “If it’s done right, it should look nice,” Liszak said.

Liszak said she liked the selfie spot but wasn’t sure about the 50-foot sail.

The plans also call for removing some trees and planting new ones.

At Times Square, visitors had differing views on the sails and “FMB” selfie sign.

Brittany Houser, of Illinois, said “they might distract from the view a little but it might brighten the view.” She said she liked the selfie idea.

“I’ve seen worst,” said Rich Hayhurst, who recently bought a home in Fort Myers. “Anything that blocks people’s view, I’m not generally for,” he said. “I love it the way it is now. I love the old Florida look.”

Hayhurst said the nicest places he has traveled to are ones that “preserve the charm.”

Nancy Hayhurst wondered about the town’s spending priorities. “I would also ask if they have a better way to spend their money,” Mrs. Hayhurst said.

Elizabeth Hanson, of Wisconsin, said she also liked the selfie spot. “Next time I come here, I’ll take a picture in front of it,” she said. She didn’t think it would block the view of the Gulf of Mexico. “It’s in one spot so if you want to see a view you can just walk somewhere else.”

Shelley Sowirka, of Detroit, did not like the FMB selfie sign but liked the sails. “It fits the decor,” she said.

Bayside Park

The plans for Bayside Park drew less disagreement among the councilmembers and could go to construction as soon as this summer. Hosafros and Veach continued to push for shade trees at the site, which had been taken out of the plans by DRMP. Benvie said they will be put back into the plans.

Benvie said plans for a splash pad have been replaced with a stage.

The new drawings also have shade sails, turf and a rain garden in front with monuments for a veterans tribute.

“It would be nice to get one of these going,” Hosafros said.

Bayside Park, located between Snug Harbor Waterfront Restaurant and Nervous Nellies, overlooking Matanzas Bay, was originally proposed to be the site of a shower, laundry and restroom facility for those using the mooring field. That plan was scrapped.

Nervous Nellie’s co-owner Tyler Lemmer said the plans were a “step in the right direction” though Lemmer didn’t think a stage was necessary as it is only needed a couple times a year and would duplicate a new stage at Times Square, he said. He would have also preferred to see a return of the fountain which was once at the park. He is also worried about the safety of the seawall.