New developer approved for restoration of McCollum Hall

Published: June 29, 2022 9:18 AM EDT
Updated: June 29, 2022 9:50 AM EDT

A new developer is collaborating with the City of Fort Myers and business leaders to restore McCollum Hall on Martin Luther King Boulevard and revive a cornerstone of the Dunbar community.

The community is hopeful Goshen + Cornerstone LLC, recently approved for the project, will restore McCollum Hall to its glory days. The hall was built in 1938 and hosted performances from legends like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington from the 1930s through the 1960s. It was a center of commerce, music and entertainment and one of the few places both Black and white residents went to for entertainment during segregation. Looking at it in 2022, though, you wouldn’t be able to tell.

The developer’s proposal includes developing a 26-unit multi-family community and over 14,000 square feet of commercial retail space at the existing McCollum Hall and the properties next to it. It’s taken a while for city leaders to find a new developer, as the project will be an expensive one, and neighbors are happy that one of their favorite places from the past may soon be a part of the city’s future.

Gerri Ware, CRA advisory board member “I want our children to really reap the benefits of McCollum Hall when, once again, we can have events here of the same nature that we had back during the day,” said Gerri Ware, member of the Community Redevelopment Agency’s advisory board.

McCollum Hall as seen in 2022. Credit: WINK News

“McCollum Hall was this vibrant place in the community that provided entertainment, it provided place, a place for people to come together,” said Michele Hylton-Terry, executive director of the CRA.

Goshen + Cornerstone says its multi-family and commercial space will be designed to meet the needs of the current housing and commercial markets, as well as the anticipated target market. Several other developers fell through due to the expense of the project. Despite the hurdles, neighbors are optimistic about the chances of this will restoration enlivening MLK Boulevard.

“Each time I’m very dismayed when it falls through,” Ware said. “But I live on hope. I live on hope.

“I’m still looking for it to jumpstart commercial activity on both sides of MLK, to see it restored with businesses,” Hylton-Terry said. “That’s my dream.”

Ware says she used to sit outside McCollum Hall and listen to the music coming from within when she was a teenager, because she wasn’t allowed inside. She says she can’t wait until the current generation, and those to come, realize the beautiful part of history they have on MLK Boulevard.