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The River District – Downtown Fort Myers

river_district_fort_myers.jpgDowntown Fort Myers has a new name: The River District.
The Fort Myers Redevelopment Agency established The River District name after receiving support from both the Fort Myers City Council and the Fort Myers Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board. The agency now will begin marketing The River District in a campaign to attract new businesses and more visitors to the area.

“We are so excited for the new name, the new look and the new campaign for the downtown area,” said Don Paight, executive director of the Fort Myers Redevelopment Agency (FMRA). “We have been working hard for a number of years to revitalize the downtown area, but this name change will give us new direction and new energy to build on those efforts.”

Read the full press release from the City of Fort Myers.

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. brian #

    One year later.
    Is there progress downtown?
    The odd thing I see is that when events are planned some shops are closed. For example the monthly car shows. Subway and Quiznos are closed. If you are the owner of these stores what are you thinking? You have hundreds of people that may spend money on food. Enjewel is open while the store next to it is often closed. Again what are they thinking? I understand it may be long hours that day but once a month when a wallet is walking right past your window.
    Maybe some of the same people complaining about business should hlp themselves a bit as well.

    January 19, 2008
  2. David #

    The City of Fort Myers, Don Paight and Duany are trying to take too much credit for too little happening downtown. It is developers who revitalize downtowns, like Cameratta, by creating the projects that bring downtowns back into the economic life of cities. And government agencies? They’re the ones who destroy cities, downtowns and all, and cause the need for re-vitalization in the first place.
    The City is getting in the way of redeveloping downtown, while trying to take credit for the redevelopment. But if the city had just butted out, there would be new housing, First Street Village would be over two years old, and ten high rise condo buildings would have been standing before the market went soft. Then, stores like Publix would’ve had a market there naturally, and would’ve built stores without the need for subsidies. And small businesses would have the customer base to thrive.
    We need less government – and need to can these stinking councilmen who hold up projects until the developers finally relent to allowing these Ellsworth Tooheys (a little Ayn Rand lingo there) to put their signatures on the develpers’ projects.
    Also, read my book Blight Ideas: How Statism is Destroying America’s Cities. It’s available on Amazon.

    March 25, 2007
  3. Brian #

    My wife and I go there a lot. I’m not sure if you are in the store when we go, it is normally a dark hair girl, but my wife loves the store. The only problem we have is the hours seem to be very random during the weekends.

    I may seem like I have a negative attitude towards the area but I have been here way too long to believe the future of the area when money is always spent on planning and little is done on doing. I give credit to the places that have stayed and hope more join you in the future.

    March 22, 2007
  4. Lynne #

    I’m the owner of a small retail store called Enjewel in The River District and we are not struggling to survive. Our sales volume has doubled in the past year, and continues to grow every day. I feel so blessed to be apart of the growing downtown area. The negative attitude of some people does not help in revitalizing this area . Granted it is taking some time to see improvement but changes are happening every day for the better . Even in the present it is still a charming area with a sense of vibrance and community .

    March 7, 2007
  5. More Baby Steps…

    Ending years of debate over the fate of Fort Myers’ Exhibition Hall, city council members Monday informally agreed that the building should be razed.

    The proposal, pushed by City Manager Tony Shoemaker, met no resistance as council members said the hall’s riverfront location could go to better public use.

    Tops on the list of likely replacement: a bandshell or amphitheater, which Shoemaker and others said would attract more events and bring more people downtown.

    October 13, 2006
  6. Baby Steps… Baby Steps

    Another sign of the River District moving forward, excerpted from today’s news.

    Patio 33 is poised to bring life back to Patio De Leon.

    Owners Denis and Lisa Meurgue, Roger Mercado and Stacey Trippe hope the new restaurant will become a focal point for good food and lively music in the downtown Fort Myers square.

    “We want this to be the place to be for food and fun,” Denis Meurgue said at the private premiere party Oct. 5. “We have two bars inside and outside, so we can do a lot of things — private parties, buffets. This is the place to party.”

    As for the menu, it spotlights internationally flavored rotisserie cooking, said Meurgue, who is also executive chef.

    October 13, 2006
  7. Brian #

    ALl I ever see is a plan to make a plan. A shopping district blocks away from the true downtown isnt a resurgence. It is a development of another sort. Also it is being anchored by a Publix. That will be sure to drive people back downtown. They can get some groceries and then go out on the town.

    October 2, 2006
  8. Shelly #

    I moved to FT Myers a little over 2 years ago from the NY City area. I knew there was a quaint quality to the city, with enough shopping malls to make everyone happy. When I first went to see Downtown, er..the River District, with the high rise condos being built, My wife and I were elated. the whole area had unused, or empty buidings with few other business in use. The city planners were sure to invest money into converting the buildings into art galleries, outdoor cafes, nightclubs (for adults, not beer joints). That way we would have a district overlooking the beautiful river, with those living in the expensive high rise condos having an are they could be proud of. I do not read or hear about any such plans. I lived in NYC when Greenwich Village was remodeled from dark and danky to upscale beautiful in a few short years. I would hope the leaders of our city would do the same. P.S,, I dont go “downtown” anymore

    September 30, 2006
  9. This is good news! From the business section of the News-Press today….

    – – – – – – – – –
    Hideaway Sports Bar opening downtown

    Downtown Fort Myers soon will have a new sports bar.

    Hideaway Sports Bar will have its grand opening celebration Saturday at 1418 Dean Street, between City Tavern and the Morgan House.

    Hideaway is the latest of a growing number of businesses that are choosing to make the River District home as residential development in the area burgeons.

    Hideaway features four TVs, including a 100-inch projection screen, sofas, 10 beers on draft, a menu with everything from crab cakes to deli sandwiches, outside dining and live music five nights a week.

    River District residents Art Baker, Bryan Glover and Brian Dodson — originally from Maryland — are the owners.

    “We feel the River District will soon be a hot spot and we want to be a part of that,” said Dodson, who has lived in the River District for eight years.

    September 27, 2006
  10. Brian,
    With all due respect, we hope you are wrong! You have another 40 or 60 years to go, and that is a veeeeerrry long time for the River District to evolve into vibrant city.
    One project that we are excited about that will bring change to both the day-time and night-time atmosphere is First Street Village. First Street Village is a “work, shop, play” project, with retail, office, and residential space. Construction for the anchor tenant, a full-size grocery story (Publix), is underway, as is construction on the project’s first town homes. This is the type of urban-living design that the city needs to jump-start its evolution.

    September 26, 2006
  11. Brian #

    What attraction is there to the downtown area? My wife and I have gone at least once a month for dinner there and the restaurants constantly change and the few shops that are still there are rarely open. I asked the waitress Saturday night when people are actually in this area and her response was after 10:30pm. To me that isnt an ideal draw for any business to try the downtown location. I do like the new brick road but again that is alot of money spent on something that will not draw people. I have lived here for 28 years and the progress made in that area is actually regress. At least in the 70’s there were stores and restaurants filling the area. Now we see signs of the future. Im 42 and I dont know if I will live long enough to see this grand ever changing plan take place.

    September 25, 2006
  12. Cass #

    Where do you get a mortgage if your are interested in purchasing a condo in a historic building converted to condos on the second floor and stores on the ground level. It is shocking to me that banks will not consider providing mortgages, even with excellent credit.

    September 19, 2006
  13. Good points all. Perhaps there was on opportunity for a compromise, as “the downtown river district” or “the historic downtown river district.”

    The Fort Myers Redevelopment Agency has a big job on its hands. We can hope there will be less “analysis paralysis” and more concrete action and rapid decision-making to move the city forward.

    Learn more about the Fort Myers Redevelopment Agencies goals and plans at this link:

    September 15, 2006
  14. josh #

    As a Fort Myers native, I am very glad that the city is making strides in its redevelopment. Although I have moved away I still have a strong connection to the city. I am proud of were i was born and raised and I will always support the city. It’s nice to see the city going through such a change. There are always growing pains and people who don’t like it, but if Ft. Myers is to compete with the other great Florida cities it must grow and change. I like the “new name” of the downtown district now known as the River District. The city was born from the river and it is the cities lifeline. People come to Ft. myers to go to the beach, though technically Ft. Myers is not on the beach, it’s on the river, and we need to bring people down there to see what we really have to offer. We have a beautiful city, with wonderful people, and a river that has so much to offer everyone.

    September 7, 2006
  15. Dear Brenda,

    If the shop owner could catch a break “until the magic happens”, he could advertise:

    Bob’s Antiques
    Located in Historic Downtown Fort Myers —The place to shop, dine, work, and play . . .

    Funny how you picked an Antique store, they are the ones I hear complaining the most.

    If the Redevelopment Agency/City of Fort Myers spent the money promoting Downtown Fort Myers – full page ads, TV commercials, etc., they would have made the local merchants happier. Instead, they are spending a fortune creating branding.

    When you think “downtown” you envision a blur of good and bad downtown areas. When I think “River District”, I think of the Mississippi River, Ohio River, Hudson River, Tennessee River, Savannah River, Delaware River – all ranking in the top ten of the most polluted rivers in America. Rivers sound romantic perhaps, but the reality is agricultural pollutants, in the form of runoff, fertilizer and animal manure, industrial waste, runoff from our cities and our sewer systems, many of which are not treated before entering the river – destroys the romance. Take a look at the pretty pictures posted on . Don’t get me wrong, one of the most beautiful weddings I ever went to was on the Caloosahatchee River at the Burroughs Home. I’ll admit, it was stunning. Try to have a wedding there today.

    OK, so let’s not dwell on the pollution. Let’s concentrate on who will see and enjoy the view of the Caloosahatchee. It certainly is not the person sipping coffee outside of the French Connection or the person looking at antiques at La Charmante Maison. It is the person who buys a condo at High Point. So I can see the excitement one may have if one were a real estate agent. Wow, a new marketing tool.

    Type “the river district” in a Google search and you get information about . . . Rockford, Illinois; Grand Junction, Colorado; Asheville, North Carolina; etc.

    Type ’Downtown Fort Myers” and you get . . . . Downtown Fort Myers!
    The Veranda Restaurant, Florida Rep, Real Estate, City Info, etc.

    I have found very few who agree with the new moniker. And, while I am staying anonymous, I assure you, I am deep in the trenches.

    August 29, 2006
  16. Dear Lee County Citizen…

    I hear ya… it’s the classic dillemma for growing, or redeveloping, downtown areas. The question is, how to create “critical mass” that will attract people to the area? With enough small businesses and variety in what they offer, the critical mass can happen “organically” (China Town comes to mind as an example).

    I like the renaming of downtown Fort Myers to The River District because many people (outside of those who live here) don’t know that downtown Fort Myers IS on the beautiful Caloosahatchee River. And people who do live here have short memories.

    Won’t the new name help small businesses market themselves? How about an antique store…

    Bob’s Antiques
    Located in the Fort Myers River District—The place to shop, dine, work, and play
    (or something along those lines)
    And perhaps the new name will attract other small businesses? If I’m opening a restaurant, do I want to be “on US 41″… or “in the River District?”

    I don’t see how the name “destroys the charm and history,” I think it adds to it. The new name paints a mental picture for people. When I think “River District,” I automatically envision other riverfront towns that have charm and history, and I’m intrigued to know more about it. When I think “downtown” I envision a blur of good and bad downtown areas.

    August 21, 2006
  17. Business in Downtown Fort Myers is struggling to survive. Incentives are given to big business while small business is told that only the strong survive. Retail office space is being take over by professional/service – namely lawyers. In desperation to show that it is trying to reinvent itself and create interest in downtown, the Fort Myers Redevelopment Agency produces a marketing plan that destroys the charm and the history of DOWNTOWN FORT MYERS! . . . The River District,

    If a wooden fence is rotting, a coat of paint may give it some hope of preservation but the need is to fix the fence – not cover it with a pretty coat of paint.

    August 7, 2006

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