FORT MYERS, Fla.- Fort Myers city leaders are beginning to search for sources of $11 million to upgrade and improve Harborside Event Center, to attract an upscale hotel. An expert in the business doubts the hotel can succeed in downtown. The idea is that the hotel would provide rooms for people attending conventions at Harborside Event Center. But the hotel developer wants $11 million in upgrades to Harborside.
"I have studied Fort Myers and the surrounding area for a number of years, going back to the mid-1990s. I see a problem with the hotel they are talking about, because the average room rates probably will be $200 a night, maybe $225. That is more than the mid-size convention attendee will want to pay," says Greg Hanis, owner of Hospitality Marketers, Inc. That company has studied hotel feasibility in various locations in the U.S. for 31 years.
"I also think that Fort Myers does not have the business base downtown, it doesn't have the big office buildings and corporate headquarters, to support a hotel of the type they are talking," adds Hanis.
Still, city leaders are trying to cobble together th $11 million.
"I am optimistic. We found money for the water basin downtown, and we will try to find these dollars too," says Don Paight, dir. of development for the city.
Lynn Routhier, owner of a business downtown, has doubts.
"I do not believe I will see that hotel next to Harborside in my lifetime. It may not happen. That kind of money, I wonder about spending that on Harborside. There's still the possibility that the hotel may not come here, even after the spending of $11 million," says Routhier.