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Civic & Community Corner: A NFM cultural arts center: Vote every day; it’s legal!

April 5, 2017
By Mike Land , North Fort Myers Neighbor

USA TODAY Newspaper is sponsoring a nation-wide contest to award one grant of $100,000 and two fifty thousand dollar grants in the areas of cultural arts. The NFM Civic Association has been saying for years that we need a North Fort Myers Cultural Arts Center, and a few months ago the three firms that were hired by the county to do a Market Assessment of the area zoned "The Town Center," being the area from the river to Pondella Road, between the two 41's, which the "experts" say is the area of NFM most likely to be the sparkplug for our town's renaissance, did a survey to find out what the residents felt was needed. Did I give them a list! But foremost on the list was a North Fort Myers Cultural Arts Center, and lo and behold, when their 286-page Market Assessment report came out several weeks ago, it stated in several places that one of the main reasons why the area hasn't been developed was because the area lacked a cultural arts center. The report repeats itself several times thereafter.

When the plans for our new $13 million dollar library were unveiled by Lee County's Architect on this project, Kevin Williams of BBS and W Architects, they held a Town Hall Meeting/Workshop in January which yours truly attended. During the "public comments" portion of that gathering I asked for:

A bus stop at the Library/Rec Center, which we got not long thereafter (thank you, County Commissioners and the good people at Lee Tran);

An exterior utilizing the main characteristics of "Old Florida" architecture, so as to comply with The NFM Land Development Code and blend with the adjacent Recreation Center built only three years ago by the County, which is a classic example of "Old Florida" architecture. Instead there is a sloped roof modern-designed building, but the County has to come before the NFM Design Review Panel, probably the first Tuesday in May, 6 p.m. at the Rec Center, Room 102A, and my hope is that somewhere along the way the building will lean towards "Old Florida";

A Town Plaza to serve as a gathering place or focal point for our community. Because we are part of unincorporated Lee County, we don't have a Mayor, a City Hall, a Town Council and as a result this town and its people don't have a sense of "place" or "community," or a place to gather for community events. One of the stated purposes of the NFM Civic Association, according to its By-Laws is to instill a sense of community and participation on the part of the residents, and that is why we do projects like "Business 41 Clean Up," a Flapjack Funfest, adopting a 2.8 mile stretch of road, from Edison Bridge to Littleton Road, participation in Lee County's Fall Funfest, The Shell Factory's Gumbofest, preparing and publishing a Promotional Brochure showing the many opportunities we have, the four billboards we have, courtesy of Carter-Pritchard Outdoor Advertising, preparing a detailed Map of NFM showing virtually every street, every community, every house of worship, every government facility, every point of interest and a marker or photo of every business that wants to advertise in the map or the promotional brochure. Call me if you are interested. So getting back to where I digressed, Mr. Williams did include in his plans an Outdoor Plaza that can hold 200 people. Thank you, Mr. Williams!

A Cultural Arts Center room be incorporated into the design. That didn't happen (but two out of four isn't bad), so Kathy Chumley, head of our NFM Library, has agreed that the large meeting room (and until that is completed two years from now, the not-so-large, but fully adequate meeting room in the existing library can be available to us on a part-time basis. It will take time to get up and running.

So back to my opening line-USA TODAY is sponsoring this Grant Competition, and we applied by doing a three-minute video with the stupendous help of Ashley Bennett as our spokesperson and Rudy Berndlmaier as Producer/Cameraman, and so now the first stage of the competition is a popularity/get out the vote contest whereby the applicants with the largest number of votes advances to the next stage of the competition, so I urge ALL OF YOU TO GO ONLINE AND VOTE EVERY SINGLE DAY between 11:59 a.m. on April 12 and 11:59 a.m. on May 12. Go to, where you can vote once every day and where you can also see the video applications of all contestants. Let me know what you think of ours! If we win the $50,000 Grant it will pay for all the work tables, equipment, supplies, storage lockers, promotion, renovations, etc. that we need. Please help us.

Thanks to Chair Brenda Sizemore, Melissa Jackson, Peg Crishal, Rudy Berndlmaier and yours truly, the public rights of way on both sides of Business 41 got cleaned from Edison Bridge to Littleton, a distance of 2.8 miles, which is the roadway that the Civic Association "adopted" and you will see the highway signs at each end of that strip so indicating. Thanks to Mary Coley, a new member, who pitched right in like an experienced hand to help make our Applebee's Flapjack Funfest a success.

And finally a big "shout out" to Kim and Lenny Bracker, call 239-218-0911two very creative and dynamic people who own Abracadabra Promotions which conducts fundraisers for non-profit entities. They are promoting a SALUTE TO AMERICA on Saturday, May 27, from 8:30 am to 3 p.m. at the North Fort Myers Nazarene Church, 6781 Bayshore Road, featuring The Calendar Girls, Clydesdales, food, music, etc. Crafters and vendors wanted. Mark your calendars. The Brackers are also trying to open an Artists Co-Op at Weavers Corner, end location next to Stamatis Restaurant, and they are looking for artists, art teachers, patrons, etc. to raise the money needed for the lease. Call them and help out, please?


Contact me at 239-823-3631 or if you have some event, project or idea that you would like in this column, or with any comments or questions. Visit



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