LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. - You could call it a tale of two cities. An article being shared on Facebook lists Lehigh Acres as something for which it would rather not be known. Furthermore, local leaders say the article doesn't show the whole picture.
The community is "creepy," according to this online article, largely due to the number of abandoned and foreclosed homes in some areas.
It's actually an older article, first released in 2013. But similar articles have been in circulation since 2009. Somehow, the article resurfaced recently on Facebook and has spread quickly in Southwest Florida.
Inke Baker is president of the Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce. She says the articles are frustrating.
"Especially here at the Chamber, where we are working very hard to improve the image of Lehigh Acres to those on the outside," Baker told WINK News.
The article and its pictures are a far cry from Dolores Finucane's home in a small neighborhood off a golf course, where homes are tidy and lawns well maintained.
WINK News showed Finucane the article, and the abandoned home representing Lehigh Acres.
"That just makes it worse," she said. "If they're going to show this house, come down and show my house. Or all the houses in this neighborhood. They're beautiful."
It's true you don't have to look hard to see reminders of how far Lehigh Acres fell in the recession. WINK News found a neighborhood with two abandoned homes within eyesight of each other. And there are vast stretches of residential streets with vacant lots of land.
But there's another truth community leaders say isn't being told: Lehigh Acres is making a comeback.
Realtor John McWilliams has sold thousands of homes in Lehigh Acres since the early 1980s. He says the area's real estate market is on the rebound, with low prices drawing in new families, first-time buyers, and financially conservative retirees. Sales in Lehigh Acres are brisk, and hold the potential for strong investment, he says.
The Lee County Property Appraiser's Office confirms McWilliams' statements. Lehigh Acres has among the fasting rising property values in the county, according to property appraiser Ken Wilkinson.
The Chamber of Commerce says those are statistics you don't see on Facebook.
"It would be nice to have some positive reports," Baker told WINK News. "That way when people are Googling us, the positive reports show up as well."