Acquest and Convergence Design principal David Greusel led a multidisciplinary team that planned the redevelopment of a key portion of downtown Fort Myers, Florida: its historic riverfront. Downtown Fort Myers is located within a historic district, so the redevelopment plan not only needed to solve complex urban design, functional and environmental issues, it needed to dovetail with historic buildings along First Street, Fort Myers’ main commercial avenue.
The plan was developed in a charrette process involving a large number of local stakeholders. Frustrated by previous redevelopment plans that had stalled, the City tried a more transparent approach, opening the planning process to a broad range of stakeholders and interested citizens. The process worked, and the new plan was acclaimed by both the citizens and the City Council as a breakthrough solution for Fort Myers. A key component of the plan is a new basin, which serves to detain stormwater runoff, but appears to extend the riverfront deep into the historic downtown.
Expanding Harborside Event Center is a key component of the plan. A new convention hotel is located just east of Harborside facing the new basin. A series of new mixed- use buildings containing ground floor restaurants and retail line the basin and extend onto an improved pier. A large public open space on the waterfront completes the plan.
The biggest challenge with this project was achieving consensus among the numerous stakeholders, both individuals and groups, who had strong opinions about the future of Fort Myers’ downtown. This challenge was overcome by using the charrette process described above to give stakeholders a sense of ownership of the direction that was taken. The implementation of the plan is proof of the success of the process.