Residents and business owners in Gardner’s Park, a historic 1920s neighborhood, have asked city leaders to restore the area into a charming garden arts district with living space above small shops and art studios, and small businesses to serve as a hub of commerce. It would restore one of the oldest areas of Fort Myers. The Community Redevelopment Agency is working with a design firm to draft plans to redevelop Gardner’s Park, the downtown Fort Myers neighborhood north of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and between Fowler Street and Evans Avenue just south of the Caloosahatchee River.
The proposed overhaul would bring artists to the area for studio space and living space, as well as more retail stores. The redevelopment would create roundabouts for the intersections near MLK to allow for continuous flow of traffic in the area, which can get clogged during rush hours. The planners are now in the design stages. While the final costs have yet to be determined, the Community Redevelopment Agency has a $37,000 contract with EnSite Design Company to pay for the cost of planning and design.
Future plans include improved residential and market streets with gateway displays. There will be landscaping between the sidewalks and streets in the residential area, and two-way bike lanes. Businesses hope it will be a destination. The Fort Myers Redevelopment Agency held a meeting to discuss changing the zoning in the area to allow retailers to operate a shop on the ground floor and live above it on the second floor. Retailers would like to see some stops along Fowler Street for the trolleys the city runs during the winter throughout downtown. There is also talk of a weekend farmers market to bring more shoppers to the area. Gardner’s Park has a rich history. It is a former guava plantation started by the Rev. William Gardner when he arrived in Fort Myers in 1895. He later became the mayor of Fort Myers.