Concerns raised over funding for downtown Fort Myers hotel

Construction is set to begin March 1 on the Luminary Hotel, and improvements to the surrounding area will also be part of the project.

But of course, that comes with a price tag.

While many know the plan is to build a hotel in an empty parking lot, the city is working on funding two other important pieces—a new parking garage and fixing up the Harborside Event Center.

But the cost of those projects has already gone up by more than $6 million.

City Manager Saeed Kazemi says the city approved a bigger budget for their downtown project in December after learning they’d need to fork up millions more.

“The cost went up because the construction costs went up,” Kazemi said.

The parking garage will cost $3 million more, and renovations to Harborside Event Center is up $2.8 million.

But visitors like Bill Austin believe the cost won’t even come close to the reward.

“If you live on tourism, which Fort Myers does, anything you do to bring more people in is a bargain,” Austin said.

Especially welcoming in a new hotel—one the city’s not having to pay to build.

But where is the money for these two projects coming from?

Kazemi says it’s a loan, citing the city doesn’t have enough funds to pay for it right now.

“We’re gonna borrow money to pay for the improvements to Harborside and the garage we don’t have the money in the city to pay for it, so we borrow money and the debt pays for the money that we borrow to do these improvements,” Kazemi said.

The cost increase will be discussed again next Monday. But Kazemi says it’s only to have the city’s budgetary line items reflect the new money they’ve already approved—a loan that will last between 20 to 30 years.

Construction will begin in March.