FORT MYERS, Fla. - The blue building on First Street in downtown Fort Myers used to be a local dive bar. Historians say the, now, dilapidated building had the longest running history as a string of restaurants. There's no denying it's in rough shape. The owner of the building wants to tear it down. Historians say at the very least, however, the front of the place, constructed in the 1920's, is worth saving.
"If a facade, at the very least, of a historic building cannot be saved in a historic district, where should it be saved?" questioned historian and author Gerri Reaves.
While the outside looks OK, Code Enforcement took pictures of the inside. The pictures show the building is falling apart. The extensive termite damage has eaten away the walls and ceiling. Water has been seeping through the roof for years. The aesthetics of the building has its neighbors on first street frustrated and ready to move on.
"It's full of bugs and vermin," said Ruthann Yeomans, "No, no. We don't need that. Let's get rid of it, I'm sorry."
"(If) you could have another building that's going to look the same without the rats, without the termites, without the asbestos and everything then go that way," said Eric Gregory. "Termites and rats are not historical. They got to go."
That's the way the owner feels. He applied with the Historic Preservation Commission to have it demolished and tells WINK News he wants to rebuild. Reaves says even if the new building looks like the old one, it wouldn't be the same.
"You walk into a beautifully tiled bathroom, or you walk onto a beautiful terrace with tiles," She said, "and there's one tile that doesn't fit or is missing or is broken. That's what it's going to be if this building is gone."
The Fort Myers Historic Preservation Commission is expected to hear the plans for the building on Thursday. They will then make a final decision as to demolish it or not. Code Enforcement says they're not sure if the very front of the building is salvageable or not; they did say, however, if they or the owner had unlimited funding, just about anything could be restored.