The Lee Trust for Historic Preservation holds a rally Saturday morning to try to save Exhibition Hall and its public waterfront in downtown Fort Myers from private development. The famous Exhibition Hall was once the most versatile multi-use facility in town but hurricanes severely damaged it and it's now condemned. City officials may vote to bulldoze the historic structure to let a developer build luxury private residences and a hotel on the site.
WCI Communities hopes to buy more than five acres of city-owned land, which includes the Hall and one of the few remaining public boat ramps along the Caloosahatchee River. That has Lee Trust for Historic Preservation president Bill Grace fighting the plan to save the waterfront.
“When that goes there won’t be much at all. The Burough’s Home – they’ve got about 150 feet there. Ofcourse they’re talking about selling the Buroughs’ Home too. But they seem to be giving away spaces for private buildings to go up. We feel like all good planner encourage communities to retain their waterfront and use that as a basis for their redevelopment projects.”
Grace says Exhibition Hall and its waterfront should be incorporated into the Andres Duany redevelopment master plan – a plan the city paid the Miami-based town planner 275,000 dollars to develop.
The City Council addresses the choice at a May 22 workshop.
If Fort Myers city officials can work out a deal with Bonita-Springs based WCI Communities before or during a workshop on May 22, Exhibition Hall likely will be torn down. Residences, maybe a hotel and entertainment spots will go up in its place –to attract more people to downtown.
But the Lee Trust for Historic Preservation is trying to prevent that from happening to the 1950’s era hall where Elvis Presley and Milton Berle once sang. Though Hurricane Charley caused damage, left mold and asbestos and got the building condemned, the Trust’s president Bill Grace says it’s still worth saving.
“If you look at the Secretary of the Interior’s standards it meets two of them – it’s associated with people of national and local prominences and it’s architecturally significant. The Lee Trust commissioned an engineering study of the structure and it was found to be in good to excellent shape.”
The Trust is also adamant about saving the public waterfront adjacent to Exhibition Hall – since it’s one of two remaining public marinas along the Caloosahatchee in Fort Myers. The group holds a rally at the hall Saturday morning from 9 to 10 to let officials know the city’s past is important to its future.
Friday, 05 May 2006 01:00