Southwest Florida Roundup
Third time's a charm? Empty 24-story building gets makeover in Fort Myers
A downtown Fort Myers eyesore gets a makeover.
As the rest of downtown Fort Myers began a slow resurgence five years ago, the 24-story, coral-colored Amtel building remained empty.
Seemingly troubled from its inception, the structure was designed to be a hotel-casino, but legislation to allow casinos in Florida never passed. The 417-room hotel, the tallest building in town in the 1980s, proved too big for the market and fell into foreclosure.
It got a second chance when a hotelier family from Thailand bought it in 1993 for $6.7 million. It operated — not very successfully — as a Sheraton, Ramada and, ultimately, as the Ambassador Hotel. In 2001, the family's patriarch died in a car crash, and the hotel became mired in a dispute over his assets. It closed in 2008, and the Amtel building has sat vacant for seven years.
Now, it's getting a third chance. New York-based developer Bob MacFarlane bought the building in January for $13.5 million and is turning it into a 55-and-over apartment complex called Campo Felice.
Workers are gutting the interior and will replace the building's coral exterior with a modern glass facade. The estimated cost of the renovation is $60 million, with completion expected late next year.
MacFarlane, who developed the Beau Rivage condominiums nearby, says Campo Felice will include 323 apartments, a 48-seat movie theater, a pool, fitness center, two restaurants and a bistro and bar. Rents will range from $1,900 to $3,500.
Meanwhile, another developer, Californian Steve Goodman, plans to build a 225-room Sheraton downtown next to the city's Harborside Event Center, which will undergo a $9-million renovation.
Don Paight, executive director of the Fort Myers Redevelopment Agency, says a convention hotel and the transformed Amtel building will help revitalize the city's riverfront.
Since 2003, more than $700 million in public and private investment has poured into downtown, and the area could see in excess of $200 million worth of additional projects, including a high-rise condominium development by Miami-based Jaxi. "The interest level has picked up considerably," Paight says.
Little Bokeelia Island
To motivate and entertain his sales team and corporate staff, entrepreneur Mark Pentecost hosts events at two properties he owns in southwest Florida: Stoneybrook Golf Course in Bradenton and a 1,000-acre cattle ranch in Myakka City. Pentecost now has another place for company gatherings. In July, he paid $14.5 million for Little Bokeelia Island, a 104-acre private retreat in the Gulf of Mexico off Lee County. The property includes a Spanish-style house, several guest cottages, a tennis court, pool, koi pond and waterfall. Pentecost is founder and CEO of Palmetto-based It Works!, a direct sales company that markets dietary supplements and skin-care products. Sales passed $530 million last year.
Tampa Bay Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke joined the National Football League as COO. Lightning President Steve Griggs took his place as CEO of the hockey team.
Former PGA Tour executive David Pillsbury became president of the Laser Spine Institute.
Accounting firm EY promoted Mike Brennan to a new post overseeing offices in Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and Tallahassee.
Bank of America Vice Chairman David Darnell, who moved to Tampa from Charlotte, N. C., last year, will retire this fall.
BRANDON - Thousands attended the opening of the first Bass Pro Shops location in the Tampa Bay area. Three years ago, Hillsborough County commissioners approved a $6.25-million road construction subsidy to bring the store to Brandon.
HENDRY COUNTY - Florida Fuel Connection will open a $300-million logistics and distribution facility for petroleum products near LaBelle, creating 50 jobs.
LARGO - Canada-based Valeant Pharmaceuticals bought contact lens company Unilens Vision in Largo for $28 million.
MANATEE COUNTY - Ellenton-based Feld Entertainment is moving its motor sports division to Manatee County from Aurora, Ill. The company will receive $2 million in state and local incentives for adding 200 jobs with an average annual wage of $72,000 over the next five years.
NAPLES - Hodges University opened an identity theft research center focused on research, education and community outreach, including victim assistance programs.
PASCO COUNTY - Manufacturer Leggett & Platt will open a facility near Spring Hill, creating more than 120 jobs.
PINELLAS COUNTY - T h e County Commission voted to increase the tourist tax by a penny to 6 cents. > Discount carrier Allegiant Air added two non-stop weekly flights between St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Memphis.
POLK COUNTY - Walmart plans to invest $207 million and create 625 jobs at a new warehouse in Polk County.
RIVERVIEW - BlueGrace Logistics, a transportation logistics company founded in 2009, plans to expand its headquarters and create 100 jobs by 2017.
ST. PETERSBURG - C1 Bank is raising its hourly minimum wage to $15. CEO Trevor Burgess instituted a $14-an-hour "living" wage in 2014. > The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ordered Raymond James to repay customers $8.7 million for mutual fund overcharges. > Publix will open a second downtown grocery store. > Commercial Development Co. Of St. Louis bought a 29-acre site once used as a Raytheon manufacturing facility near Tyrone Square mall for redevelopment.
TAMPA - Feldman Equities plans to develop a 52-story mixed-use tower on a riverfront lot where a Trump-branded high-rise had been planned 10 years ago. It would be the tallest building on Florida's west coast. > Tampa-based pub chain Beef O' Brady's launched a fast-casual spinoff called Beef's Express, with its first location in Lakeland. > Software firm Accusoft will receive $750,000 in state and local incentives as part of a $5.25-million expansion. The firm plans to double its workforce in the next five years, adding 125 jobs. > Canada-based Emera reached a deal to buy TECO Energy, t h e parent of Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas, for $10.4 billion. The deal is expected to close by mid-2016. > Moffitt Cancer Center received a $3.6-million grant from the NIH to study the safety of electronic cigarettes and their effectiveness in helping smokers quit. > Local startup SynDaver Labs plans to raise $1 million in a private offering to expand operations. SynDaver, which makes human models for training in schools, hospitals and military installations, got a $3-million offer after an appearance on ABC's "Shark Tank," but the deal fell through.