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County grants extension on Merchants Crossing plans

May 27, 2020
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Redevelopment of a North Fort Myers shopping center is going to take a little longer.

Lee County has extended its grant agreement with a company tasked with redeveloping the Merchants Crossing Shopping Center.

RD Management sought a timeline extension for its submission of a development order application to no later than Aug. 31. Officials cited difficulties in working with consultants that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March, the BOCC approved a $1.7 million grant through the Develop North Fort Myers program, toward a $40 million redevelopment project at the plaza.

In September 2018, the BOCC approved a $75,000 facade grant toward a $300,000 facade improvement project at Merchants Crossing. The work has been completed and the grant reimbursement was reviewed, approved and paid last month.

The Merchants Crossing project consists of the demolition of vacant buildings; flood proofing measures; updated and expanded infrastructure; construction of four new multi-family buildings consisting of 272 units; and the addition of 6,000 square feet of new retail space.

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Under this project, RD Management is estimated to pay more than $1.3 million in fees and demolish more than 150,000 square feet of existing vacant commercial floor area.

In other business, the BOCC approved a Memorandum of Intent between the county and the School Board of Lee County for a donation of land to facilitate a turn lane's design, construction and maintenance of road improvements along Littleton Road as part of the Littleton Road widening project.

This agreement allows the parties to work together to provide additional land for a new right turn lane into the Littleton Elementary site, on-road bike lanes and a sidewalk.

During public comment on the consent agenda item, Danny Ballard said there was discussion in the past between the school system and the Florida DOT for Hutto Road, now a dead-end street, to be extended to Diplomat.

If that were to happen, Ballard said that would ease up traffic on Littleton significantly and allow school buses to enter Littleton Elementary on Hutto. Such a plan, of course, would come with a high price tag.

The Littleton Road widening project will, among other things, connect Littleton with Kismet Parkway in Cape Coral, providing for another east-west thoroughfare.

The BOCC also agreed to approve and execute the third amendment to the management agreement for the Lee Civic Center Complex between Lee County and the Southwest Florida and Lee County Fair Association to extend the term of the agreement for one year.

The Fair Association requested a one-year extension to the current management agreement from Oct. 1, 2020 to Oct. 1, 2021, citing the COVID-19 pandemic which has delayed current projects, as well as the complexity of the annual planning for the fair.

In 1996, the BOCC initially entered into a 10-year agreement for the management and operation of the Lee Civic Center Complex. In 2000, the parties entered into a 20-year agreement, which was set to expire this year.

The previous two amendments were to require the Fair Association to deposit one-third of the Civic Center parking proceeds into an account to be used toward future major improvements at the Civic Center Complex, in 2007.

In 2011, a second amendment allowed for the sale, service and consumption of alcoholic beverages on county property.

Merchants Crossing Shopping Center is at 15201 N Cleveland Ave



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