FORT MYERS, Fla. (Jan. 5, 2017) – The Southwest Florida Community Foundation recently closed on a $10 million New Markets Tax Credit deal to be used to restore the historic Atlantic Coast Line railroad station and build a technology hub and headquarters in the Midtown historic neighborhood of Fort Myers.
The New Markets Tax Credit, or NMTC, program encourages economic development in distressed neighborhoods.
As part of the public-private partnership with the City of Fort Myers, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation will sign a long-term lease with the city to move its regional headquarters to the train depot on Jackson Street. The building will be restored, and the Foundation plans to construct a 10,000-square-foot LEED Gold addition to create a campus that includes the Foundation offices and state-of-the-art shared space for the community and tenants.
Florida Community Loan Fund provided the $10 million in the NMTC allocation, and U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation is an investor on the project. Whitney Hancock Bank provided additional financing.
According to Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the innovative thinking around community investments that created this opportunity will result in a gathering place for philanthropy and nonprofits in the heart of midtown Fort Myers, featuring vibrant spaces for work, gatherings and special events. In addition, plans include state-of-the-art broadband access.
“We are extremely excited about this project, public/private partnership with the City and the possibilities this brings for the midtown neighborhood,” said Owen. “We like to call this a ‘collaboration accelerator’ that is powered by technology, funding and good ideas to create change in our region. It’s old historic rail meeting new innovative rail.”
The center, along with the Internet network, will be a resource for regional nonprofit organizations, local businesses and schools.
“This is a fantastic project because it gives U.S. Bank the opportunity to support the restoration of an important historical building, spark new economic development in a growing region and partner with a visionary non-profit,” said Jennifer Westerbeck, vice president of U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation, a division of U.S. Bank.
The City’s Midtown redevelopment plan covers the areas south of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, north of Edison Avenue, east of U.S. 41 and west of Fowler Street. Part of this plan also includes 15 blocks of upgraded utilities and $2.5 million of streetscaping.
The Foundation is supporting the financing by paying closing costs and interest payments for the next seven years. The New Markets Tax Credit provided $3 million of equity-like financing to the $10 million project, which after seven years will be available to be converted to true equity.
The Atlantic Coast Line railway station at 2031 Jackson Street 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 and 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 to the Imaginarium’s site at Cranford Avenue.
“This project is a win-win for our region because it is a pivotal example of unique strategies and investment coming together for repurposing and revitalization of our historic treasures and neighborhoods,” added Owen. “Upon completion, this once vital Fort Myers’ asset will once again be a central hub for community activity and progress.”
Work on the site is anticipated to begin February 2017, exactly 93 years after the original presentation to the city.
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. Last year, it partnered with individuals, families and corporations that created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation’s invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $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.
Based in Fort Myers, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has 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.