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New restaurants approved for Old San Carlos

November 29, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Old San Carlos will soon be getting some new menus in the restaurant scene.

In a 5-0 vote, the Town Council approved amendments to a commercial planned development for the Olde Seaport site, which is situated roughly at the end of Old San Carlos and Bayfront (formerly Fountain) Park. The Local Planning Agency also recommended approval.

"I'm very grateful for the LPA and Council's approval," said owner and 25-year resident Jim Figuerado. "We're very excited. Council had a good vision of what we wanted."

Article Photos

The Olde Seaport project will build two new restaurants at the south end of Old San Carlos Blvd. This map is a simplification of the site plan and may not include every detail — to see a full site plan of the Olde Seaport CPD, check the Town Council agenda packet for the Nov. 20 meeting. Map by Jessica Salmond.

The original plan was approved in 2015, but property owner Jim Figuerado returned to the town to get the okay for a change in the plan.

Olde Seaport will develop the grassy area between the condominium tower and the bay, as well as a small strip of land in front of the parking lot on Old San Carlos.

Originally, the plan called for a restaurant, an open-air market area and potentially a pirate museum built out on the dock.

Unfortunately, due to Department of Environmental Protection rules, a building out on a dock is no longer permitted. Figuerado said after consulting with his contractor, Rob Fowler, he also decided open air shops would be a hard sell as all new buildings have to meet flood regulations, and it's difficult to get clients up the stairs for shopping. To keep the peace with neighbors, Figuerado is also deleting one of the restaurants and seating areas, which was going to be a deli open until 3 p.m.

However, outdoor seating can be placed above water with DEP's approval. So, the new plan is two have two restaurants, one on the water with seating out on the dock and one "skinny" one along the parking lot.

Instead of the pirate museum idea, Figuerado has a new plan that struck a chord with the council.

"I'm thinking, I'd like to put some history stuff there to attract people to that area of the waterfront," he said. "When we get done it's going to be something you can all be proud of."

Some of the dock space will also be used for Fort Myers Beach Sea and Sun Rentals, a boat rental company owned by Figuerado and his son, David.

The approval on Nov. 20 didn't come without some debate among town council. While Charles Basinait, Figuerado's attorney, assured council members that all the materials required for the application were present, some of them felt the materials were lacking details. Council Member Joanne Shamp said in the beginning she felt the council didn't know what it was being asked to approve. Vice Mayor Tracey Gore called the materials a "hot mess" because some information, like the precise square footage of the property and the exact parking requirements, were unclear or missing.

Because of the nature of the request, the CPD amendment could have been approved administratively. But Town Planner Matt Noble said he and staff felt uncomfortable not bringing the item before council, and Town Manager Roger Hernstadt said he thought the project change deserved public vetting. Only one member of the public spoke on the project; John Richard, who owns neighboring property, said he supported Figuerado "100 percent." He also opined on the importance of shared parking lots in the downtown core, rather that privately owned lots. According to the Olde Seaport plan, its businesses would share the lot on Old San Carlos, not charge for beach parking. The CPD meets parking requirements, and might even provide a handful of extras.

Ultimately, the council passed the amendment with several stipulations, such as live music being restricted to inside the building and changing some of the language to accurately reflect the development.

The two restaurants will have a "old Florida" feel and aesthetic to tie into the area's history.

"This is the exact kind of project we envisioned in the Old San Carlos (redevelopment) plan," said Council Member Anita Cereceda.

Figuerado's ready to get a shovel in the ground: he said he plans to pursue a building permit and submit before the end of the year. He's going to start with the dockside restaurant first before moving to the "skinny" restaurant in front of the parking lot. He's hoping these new developments will fill in the southern end of Fort Myers Beach's northern commercial area.

"They have Times Square on the other end, I think we'll call this Harbor Square and draw people down to this end," he said.



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