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New name of 'Times Square Resorts' comes to light as Torgerson goes forward

No longer needing it, developer donates his coastal protection plan to the town

May 11, 2016
By John Morton ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

For developer Tom Torgerson, part of a fresh start is coming in the form of a fresh name.

Gone is Grand Resorts, and now Times Square Resorts is the title of what he still hopes becomes a redevelopment project in downtown Fort Myers Beach.

Torgerson, who has spent nearly $40 million in property acquisition the past year, on Tuesday notified Town Council members of the new name. He also confirmed he would be donating to the town the $250,000 worth of research and engineering he's spent on a coastal protection system, or seawall, that spanned from the Mermaid Lounge to the end of Lynn Hall Memorial Park, protecting not only his three hotels but the Times Square merchants and some residential areas. His new plan will not need it.

"We are extremely proud of what we consider to be an incredibly creative piece of work and something we believe would be the envy of other coastal communities," said Torgerson, who noted the findings would be passed along "with no strings attached."

He added, "It balances a delicate ecosystem of human habitat, wildlife habitat, Mother Nature, a downtown commercial district and imposing FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) regulations, which by description is a daunting task.

"It is a system that has morphed from other attempts to deal with these same circumstances, but we believe to be a much more comprehensive and advanced system."

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Without the wall, which was a source of great resistance from some in the community, Torgerson's project will likely be built on stilts 17 feet above sea level per the FEMA requirements that apply in a beachfront velocity zone that is high in flood risk. He had hoped to line the ground-level floors with commercial space.

Also dropped are the previous plans of re-routing Estero Boulevard, thus eliminating his proposed pedestrian mall and convention center, and his hope of acquiring the public Crescent Beach Family Park, which Lee County owns.

The town's comprehensive plan puts an emphasis on the development of better pedestrian flow.

"We would like to donate them for the jurisdiction's consideration as a vision as to how the town could maintain their comprehensive plan's desired pedestrian corridor interface," Torgerson said of the coastal protection plans.

So, as many of the desires and amenities he proposed have fallen to the wayside, what's left for Torgerson is the hopeful creation of an undetermined number of traditional hotels. Among them originally was a Hilton Hotel that Torgerson first slated for eight floors in height but was twice reduced, a floor at a time, ending with six floors. The town's comprehensive plan limits new construction to four floors.

On April 12, Torgerson pulled the plug on his intention to file an application for the Grand Resorts plan. No new plans have been unveiled since.

New name or not, Mayor Dennis Boback said he has no relevant comment until he sees an application.

"It wasn't the name that was polarizing, it was the scope," he said.

Colleen Hendrickson, a concerned resident who started a group called the Fort Myers Beach Community Coalition, has fought Torgerson at every turn during his public presentations. She continues to remind Torgerson he has to stay within the town's rules.

"It doesn't matter what you call it," she said. "You have to respect the principles of a plan that has suited the town quite well for the last 20 years."



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