Owner may revitalize North Fort Myers’ Hancock Square Plaza into apartment complexes

An area along US-41 at the base of the Caloosahatchee Bridge was once the heart of a bustling North Fort Myers. But now, with the loss of Walmart, Publix, Office Depot, Shoney’s, Taco Bell and other restaurants and retailers over the years, storefronts sit vacant.

Wendy Fahl owns a sewing boutique in an empty shopping center at Hancock Square Plaza.

Fahl dreams of the day when her town will join the rest of Lee County’s growth trend.

“I want to shop in North Fort Myers,”¬†Fahl said. “I don’t want to have to cross the bridge if possible and I don’t understand why we can’t get anything substantial here.”

County leaders have that same dream. They see this dreary stretch of US-41 turning into a vibrant area with new stores, hotels, restaurants and housing.

Both Fahl and the county agree — fixing this plaza is the key to redeveloping the area. She has seen a 30 percent decrease in sales.

Fahl believes if the shopping center is rebuilt, it will cause a domino effect as it draws in new business and encourages her neighbors to rebuild.

“If we had a reason for people to go straight into our plaza versus turning right and going over the river, we would welcome so much more business,” Fahl said.

The owner of the plaza said he is going to file for rezoning of the property this year. He wants to knock everything down, then build new apartment complexes with retail stores on the first floor.

Pam Poyfair, a shopper, said the sooner, the better.

“Needs to be done, it really does,” Poyfair said. “It’s sad.”

Fahl has not had a good relationship with the owner. She does not believe anything will be done, but she tries to remain optimistic.

“It’s centrally located,” Fahl said. “We don’t have the traffic congestion of Estero and Bonita. Such a good opportunity here.”

Video from the Lee County Economic Development Office:

Writer:Michael Mora