Published: Oct 15, 2011 1:56 AM EDT
Updated: Oct 15, 2011 9:09 PM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla. - While downtown Fort Myers will be "dead" this weekend with the arrival of Zombicon 2011, it's actually very much alive. From new restaurants to clothing stores, if you've haven't been to the River District in a while, you might not recognize it.

Walk through the doors of Downtown Italy Restaurant, and the aroma of marinara fills the air. After just 5 months of business, they've got big plans.

"We're just trying to bring a downtown Italian feel to Fort Myers and try to get people to come downtown more, try to get the business booming," Redmond James of Downtown Italy said.

They're not alone. Just down the sidewalk, the racks at Charme, another new business, are filled with eclectic clothing and scarves.

"I have a feeling it's going to grow," Charme employee Sharon Rotondo said. "If we don't have something, we would have them go to our neighboring store and that way, we all work together and it keeps us a team

Say goodbye to empty storefronts. Just in the past 2 months, the City of Fort Myers reports 18 new businesses in the River District. These businesses are bringing their products and services to the city, hoping to be a part of a grassroots revitalization.

Rossy Fashion Accessories opened 7 months ago, offering inexpensive handmade jewelry. Under the historic Arcade Theatre marquee, Savvy on First sells unique creations by more than 200 artists, promoting the idea of "buying local."

"All the seasonals and snowbirds coming in, they are going to be like, wow! It's a wow effect, when they come downtown," Executive Chef and Owner of Lush Bakery Eric Truglas said.

Lush is one of the newest additions, open just 10 days. They bake almost everything on site and hope the bakery will be a key ingredient in downtown's success.

"I always wanted to move downtown," Truglas said. "Recently, with all the transformation and all the effort that was put in to recreate the downtown, I think it was the right time."

Even though we're not yet in season, these new businesses tell me, events like art and music walk, and this weekend's Zombicon, are what keeps them going, and helps get their names out there.

Zombiecon runs from 6:00 p.m. to midnight Saturday. Last year, police estimated that about 10,000 people attended.