More than 300 city leaders, business professionals and Southwest Florida residents recently attended the construction kickoff celebration of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s new Collaboratory on Thursday, April 27 in downtown Fort Myers.
Celebrating the public-private partnership of the Foundation and the City of Fort Myers, the event marked the beginning of the transformation of the Atlantic Coast Railway station and construction of a 13,000-square-foot LEED addition to create a campus that includes the Foundation’s regional headquarters and state-of-the-art shared space for the community and tenants. A brief program featured comments from the leadership of the Foundation, the City of Fort Myers and a representative of the Florida Community Loan Fund.
The Foundation is funding the project with a $10 million New Market Tax Credit deal, or NMTC, a program that encourages economic development in distressed neighborhoods. Florida Community Loan Fund provided the NMTC allocation and U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation is an investor on the project. Whitney Hancock Bank provided additional financing.
Fort Myers based Parker Mudgett Smith Architects and OAK Construction Co. are leading the project’s renovation and construction. The project is focused on preserving historical features of the property and railway station.
When complete in summer 2018, the Collaboratory will feature vibrant spaces for work, gatherings and special events. In addition, plans include state-of-the-art technology that encourages regional collaboration.
The Atlantic Coast Line railway station was presented to the city on Feb. 4, 1924, the same year Fort Myers was poised to join the Florida real estate boom of the 1920s. In the face of shrinking revenues, the Seaboard Coast Line (which had merged with ACL) sold its track, discontinued all passenger service into Fort Myers and closed the station in 1971. After sitting empty for a decade, the Southwest Florida Museum of History opened on the site in 1982. In 2015, the museum merged with the Imaginarium Science Center and recently moved physically to the Imaginarium’s site at Cranford Avenue.
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. It partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community last year. With assets of $93 million, it has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Community Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.
Currently, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are located off College Parkway in South Fort Myers, with satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.