Plans for nearby high-rises irk Dean Park residents

FORT MYERS, Fla. Many in the city have a low opinion on high-rises — and they’re making their voices heard.

Residents of the Dean Park Historic District showed up at Wednesday’s city Planning Board meeting to speak out against a proposal that would encourage the construction of more high-rise buildings nearby.

Others turned out to oppose high-rises at Monday’s City Council meeting, when council members voted unanimously to authorize advertisement for at least two formal public hearings on the city’s redevelopment plan.

The goal of the plan is to add more affordable housing downtown in hopes of attracting millennials and diversifying the economy, but some contend high-rises would negatively impact the look of the city.

“We bought our house believing that in our backyard the max height restriction will be 3 stories, but we’re finding out that’s going to be changed with no respect for the historic district,” Dean Park resident Donna Ellswick said Wednesday.

Council won’t vote on the plan until after at least two public hearings. But Ellswick and others are confronting the issue with a sense of urgency.

“I think to be surrounded by buildings of unlimited height — I think is a terrible result,” Dean Park resident Ann Martindale said.

City Council member Michael Flanders, who represents Ward 4, insists that high-rises and other changes are necessary for the continued success of the city’s downtown revitalization effort that began 14 years ago.

“We need more density and we need for it to be more lucrative to develop, or else we will have nothing like we’ve had in 14 years,” Flanders said.

 

Ellswick doesn’t believe the high-rises built so far have paid off for the city.

“They haven’t brought jobs; they haven’t all the things that the city wanted them to bring,” she said. “And to keep going down that road seems very foolish.”

 

Reporter:John-Carlos Estrada
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