Buyers lacking in city-owned former News-Press site

Published: July 20, 2022 4:52 PM EDT
Updated: July 20, 2022 6:17 PM EDT

A major project by the City of Fort Myers that cost taxpayers money is having trouble getting off the ground.

The City of Fort Myers bought the old News-Press site at the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and Fowler Street back in 2019 to turn it into a new police headquarters.

The building cost $9 million but the price tag for the transformation got too high and the city decided to put the building back on the market.

The City of Fort Myers stopped accepting proposals for the site on July 1.

Only one proposal was received for the old fire station, which sits on a corner of the larger lot at Central Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The bid does not include plans for the rest of the property.

On Wednesday, the Solicitation Review Committee reviewed the proposal for the first time.

The proposal for the old fire station comes from Bruno’s of Brooklyn. The proposed purchase price, according to the bid, is $450,000. With a parking lot next door, the proposal increases to $540,000.

A rendering shows what the old fire station in Fort Myers could look like if a purchase is approved. Bruno’s of Brooklyn would like to build a restaurant, market and apartments on the second floor. (CREDIT: City of Fort Myers)

The project includes restaurant, retail and residential spaces that would “honor and enhance the architectural heritage of the fire station.”

The former site of The News-Press is huge at 170,000 square feet.

“I was really shocked to see that only one person put one in, and it was only for that one particular site,” said Fort Myers Fire Chief Tracy McMillion.

Despite just one proposal for the old fire station, officials like the possibility of what it could become.

“They plan to have their restaurant, an open market, they didn’t specify what would be sold there. And then some studio and one bedroom apartments,” said Denise Finn, City of Fort Myers Procurement Manager.

The Solicitation Review Committee voted unanimously to recommend city council review the fire station proposal. Officials say that could happen in September.

As for the larger News-Press site, it’s still a part of the city’s development plans.

“Some developer, someone with a vision, will say, I can do some magic with that particular site. So, it’s going to happen,” McMillion said.