NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla.- A town center full of shops, restaurants, green space and pedestrian friendly streets could be coming to North Fort Myers, but the development has a long way to go before it becomes reality.
The proposed development is 70 acres along US 41 to Pondella Road, with the main focal point where Hancock Bridge Parkway meets 41.
There are many empty storefronts in that area, but county planners hope that will all change down the road. It could be 20 to 30 years before a a plan like this comes to life.
Debbie Olive owns the Quilt Lover's Hangout on US 41 and says she likes the town center idea.
"I think it'd be great for the area. I think the area needs something like that," she says.
But she wants to make sure her business still has a home when it comes to the new development.
"I would sure hope they would fit us in. We are considered a destination shop, we are one of the main anchor stores for this shopping mall," she added.
Jim LaRue, President of LaRue Planning and Management, is working on the development. He says North Fort Myers could be transformed. "No question about it, when you look at the existing buildings here, there are a lot of vacancies and there's not really any redevelopment going on," he says.
But he says they need public and private partnerships to make a multi-million dollar project like this become a reality.
He says, "when you provide them a vision of what it could be, with a lot of intensity and new streets and an urban design approach, it would give the community a much better chance to see redevelopment."
The county and planning firm have held numerous public meetings about the development, with the latest one being Tuesday night.
LaRue says the feedback has been positive. "We met separately with a lot of the properties here and showed them the design posibilities and the incentives to build."
Lee County planners say this is just one of several neighborhood projects they are working on.
As for North Fort Myers, they are done with the planning phase and now will present the building regulations to several committees for approval this summer.
It is a long term plan that they've worked on for 2 years. County planners say that puts them ahead of the game, when people are in the position to start building.