The Improvements of Fort Myers Beach
Fort Meyers Beach rebuilding after Hurricane Ian. Photo by Ella Rhoades for FOX4 Southwest Florida.
After the devastating tragedy of Hurricane Ian on Sept 28, 2022, Fort Myers is still rebuilding a year later. The residents lost their homes and their jobs. Nothing was left of the tourist attraction but debris and boats on the streets. The clean up and rebuilding are still happening but there have been many improvements to the beach.
Michigan resident, Nancy Jarosiewicz, said, “I can’t wait to get back to Florida. I am so grateful to my son for fixing our home.” Category four Hurricane Ian, with 150 mph winds, made landfall, killing 149 people. Fort Myers residents hadn’t experienced a hurricane like this since 1992, when category 5 Hurricane Andrew struck the Bahamas, Florida, and Louisiana.
Fort Myers Beach was one of the hardest hit communities. This year, on Dec 6, Fort Myers Beach Elementary School students returned to school. It thrilled the students and teachers for the school to reopen after Hurricane Ian nearly wiped it out. The construction of the school is not yet complete. Due to the cafeteria's being destroyed, meals are now delivered from Lexington Middle School on a food truck. Additionally, there are combined classes for fourth and fifth graders, as well as first and second graders. Kindergarten and third graders have their own classroom. “It’s an amazing amount of work. It’s more of a labor of love. This is about a community and a school system and local government all coming together, “Lee County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Bernier said.
Many restaurants have reopened, such as Flippers On the Bay, Tiki Bar at the Lighthouse, La Ola Surfside, The Rude Shrimp, Yo Taco and many more. There are also new bars and grills that have opened up like Yucatan Beach Stand and The Beach Bar. Some things are still under construction, but the community is glad to see the rebuilding of Times Square, including the Fort Myers Beach iconic clock. The community gets together at the Fort Myers clock for the Farmer’s Market from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Fridays. Chris Primeau had a plan for Times Square after Hurricane Ian had left most of the tourist destination empty. Two artists transformed his gray elevator shaft into a towering backdrop fit for a Cecil B. Demille epic. Lacy McClary and Summer DeSalvo responded to Primeau's call for artists to paint the elevator shaft. They donated their time, talent, and energy as Primeau raised funds for equipment and supplies to turn the elevator shaft that once was the demolished Sandal Factory into a new welcoming sign overlooking Times Square.
There are places you can stay that are open such as Waterfront Island Oasis. On Dec. 11, the hotel Margaritaville will be holding a soft opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony. The hotel started selling out rooms before it plans to open fully. Other places you can stay on the beach consist of Lover’s Key Resort, Tropical Paradise, and Hampton Inn.
The Neptune Resort is one of the oldest resorts on the island. The resort dates back to the 1960s. Having been damaged by Hurricane Ian, the resort is behind repair and needs to be demolished and rebuilt. As a result of the horrible damage caused by Hurricane Ian, the owners of The Neptune Resort are planning a new resort that will have twice as many rooms as the old one. The 71 rooms resort will now be 140 rooms.
“As we continue to recover, the county team makes every effort to assess co-operative priorities, work with Town leadership, and listen to the community. Our park system is vital to Lee County residents, as well as our valued visitors and guests. This is another positive step in the complex process as we move forward,” said, Lee County Commissioner Ray Sandelli.
Fort Myers Beach resident Allen Shanosky got tired of waiting and sitting around for Lee County to rebuild the Fort Myers Beach Pier. With little to no work being done by the county since its destruction from Hurricane Ian, Shanoksy decided to take action into his own hands. He and his wife Cynthia took their “Covid camper trailer” and went on a two-month tour of piers from Florida up to North Carolina before he began work on designing his own replacement pier.