A Bold New Future
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s future is taking shape in the historic neighborhood of downtown Fort Myers with the renovation of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad depot and the creation of a Regional Collaboratory & Tech Hub where ideas for social, economic and sustainable change will be born and fostered. Work on the site began February 2017, exactly 93 years after the original presentation of the train station to the city.
“The Collaboratory is a game-changer,” said Sarah Owen, foundation president & CEO. “What will be happening inside that building will lead to ideas, people and funding coming together to make social and economic change for our region.”
The renovated train station and a 15,000-square- foot addition designed and built to earn LEED Gold certification will be home to the foundation’s new regional offices and the Collaboratory, offering meeting and tenant spaces, social gathering and special events venues, and shared working and collaborations space all powered by state-of-the-art Florida Lambda-Rail broadband internet.
The project was funded through a $10 million New Market Tax Credit deal which encourages economic development in distressed neighborhoods. Mrs. Owen hopes the Community Foundation’s use of New Market Tax Credits, will encourage nonprofits to take advantage of
the financial tool.
The Foundation has also signed a long-term lease with the city of Fort Myers for the Jackson Street depot. This is a true public-private partnership in which the city is not funding the entire infrastructure. It’s a perfect example of impact investing by getting everyone at the table.
Long-time community benefactors David and Linda Lucas successfully challenged the community to match their generous $2.5 million Collaboratory endowment, resulting in $5 million, not for infrastructure, furniture or office supplies, but for the transformational collaboration, community convening and philanthropic work that will take place on the 3-acre campus.
“We believe people coming together is one of the most powerful ways to strengthen our region,” said Dr. Larry Hobbs, chairman of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation board of trustees, in announcing the endowment and matching gifts from 83 individuals.
“Collaboration works best when it evolves organically through conversation and working together. When people find themselves together there’s an energy that just happens,” said Mrs. Owen. “What happens in the Collaboratory depends on you, the community. And we have