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County approves grant for Merchants Crossing

By Staff | Mar 25, 2020

At any other meeting, County Commissioner Brian Hamman would have been happy after the Lee County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a $1.7 million grant for redevelopment at Merchants Crossing Plaza.

With the county declaring a state of emergency, however, the celebration was tempered.

The performance incentive grant, which is going to RD Management for the redevelopment of the north end of the plaza, is part of a pilot program through the North Fort Myers Revitalization Incentives program.

The grant will induce RD Development to undertake a $40 million project, which will consist of demolishing everything from Planet Fitness north to include the abandoned Sears Grand building, which has become blighted, construction of four new multi-family buildings of 272 units and the addition of 6,000 square feet of new retail space.

The incentive grant will be disbursed in phases on a reimbursement basis for work completed.

Hamman said he was thrilled to see this day come after nearly two years of promoting the grant program.

“This is a day I dreamed of when we created that fund. Today, we actually got started. That Sears building will come down, it will be replaced by housing that is much needed and you’ll see a mixed-use development that allows people to live, work and play in one space,” Hamman said, adding that market rate housing in the area is cheaper than in most of the county.

Glen Salyer, assistant county manager, said the project is a golden opportunity to help in the redevelopment of an area that didn’t see much of a boom during the economic recovery.

“Aesthetically, this will be a nice project and economically it would be great for the area,” Salyer said. “Things have lagged in North Fort Myers and this could be an anchor for redevelopment. It’s a significant property and we think it can kick start the whole process.”

The project consists of the demolition; flood proofing measures; updated and expanded infrastructure; construction of four new multi-family buildings consisting of 272 units; and the addition of 6,000 square feet of new retail space.

RD Development is estimated to pay more than $1.3 million in fees and demolish more than 150,000 square feet of existing vacant commercial floor area.

Of the $1.7 million grant, $1.4 million is for a Keystone Grant, making for a signature development in the area. Additional grants of $100,000 are for demolition and infrastructure, and two $50,000 grants will be for flood proofing and fee assistance.

RD Development has 60 days to apply for a Development Order and three years to complete the project. A one-year extension is available if the company can show that the remaining work can be completed in that time.