City of Fort Myers discusses selling old firehouse to Bruno’s of Brooklyn

Published: August 12, 2022 4:36 PM EDT
Updated: August 12, 2022 5:56 PM EDT

The owners of a local restaurant want to purchase an old firehouse from the City of Fort Myers to convert it into an Italian eatery and market.

Bruno’s of Brooklyn has proposed buying the property at the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Central Avenue for $450,000.

The company’s proposal also includes a dozen studio and 1-bedroom apartments that would be designed as living and working spaces.

The Brunos have a clear vision of what the place should look like, a multi-use building with a restaurant, upscale retail shops and apartments. The family already has another restaurant in downtown Fort Myers called Bruno’s of Brooklyn.

“It appears that he is interested in rehabbing it and keeping it, you know, sort of with the same look and feel, but just doing some upgrades to it,” said City of Fort Myers spokeswoman Liz Bello-Matthews.

The Fort Myers City Council will review the plan on Monday.

The recommendation is to approve the plan.

“What’s going to happen now is that on Monday, this proposal was going to come before the council, and you’re going to see them talking a lot more in-depth about it,” Bello-Matthews said. “They have the choice at that time, whether they’re going to move it forward and accept it as is, or if they decide that they want to maybe, negotiate some parts of it.”

The building operated as the city’s main fire station for 65 years.

“This is a city that loves history. So, you know, the idea of having a local resident who obviously is a business owner and is interested in bringing that to life, I do know that that’s making a lot of residents very excited,” Bello-Matthews said.

The firehouse is part of the larger News-Press site at the corner of Fowler Street. The city purchases the building in 2019 to turn it into a new police headquarters but has recently decided to sell the property instead.

Bello-Matthews said the city has received another proposal for the News-Press site.

“That one, in particular, I don’t know enough to actually be able to share all the details on it yet. But I do know that the process with that is going to be the same,” she said.

Construction on the old firehouse is expected to cost $4.4 million, not including the cost of buying the property.

Fort Myers Councilman Liston “Lin” Bochette, who represents the ward the property is located in, said Brunos has invested in the community at all levels.

He said the city may have lost the Columbia Restaurant, “but we should not risk losing this recognized leader in the industry to another city.”

Bochette said Bruno’s plan could bridge downtown with Midtown, the area south of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard corridor that the city hopes to redevelop.