The City. No one goes there any more….it’s too crowded.

The City. No one goes there any more….it’s too crowded.

This Yogi-ism (On why he no longer went to Ruggeri’s, a St. Louis restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded) is funny because we get it. We get what he meant. You stop going to your favorite spot where you knew everybody because gradually the crowd took over. But for every one person that stopped going ten more went. Such is the transition of downtowns of cities like Fort Myers and Sarasota. Naples already has it. Orlando; Jacksonville; Bradenton; Key West. They either have or will. (City or Suburbs, Pros and Cons)

I have a friend that had a vending booth New Year’s Eve in downtown Sarasota. He sold Hoot Dogs (not a typo – Hoot Dog is the brand of hot dog) from a cart. Only problem was there were so many people in attendance his supply line was cut (He couldn’t get resupplied with hot dogs thought the dense crowd) that he shut down before the ball dropped.

Market America Group and Dean Street Insurance have a VIP room (Private bar, lounge, big screen TV, cigar humidor, and most important on event nights – a bathroom) right in the heart of the river district. (The VIP is also our downtown Oasis Sales Center)

We use VIP as a meeting place with friends and clients, move a few seats onto the sidewalks, and let the downtown parties like Artwalk, New Years Eve, and Music Walk come to us. Last night Gail and I went to a fundraiser sponsored by Dean Street Insurance and put on by Cat Foster at The Firestone, Fort Myers newest hot spot.

We then went to VIP for a drink and to watch Bike Night activities. The streets seemed as crowded as any event we have attended. (City Tavern was SRO at 8:30). The main streets were closed and bikes and people lined the streets. We were able to get parking behind VIP because we go there early for the fundraiser (about 5PM) and because no one yet had “stolen” our private parking behind our building; but there were folk that were complaining about how far they had to walk. (There is not a shortage of parking in downtown – just a shortage of free, close in parking).

“It’s too crowded, no one goes there any more”, the quote came into my head because of all the above and made me smile.

Our downtowns are back, and they are wonderful. The flight to the suburbs is reversing in many cities. Patrons are shunning the cookie cutter malls and seeking the charm and uniqueness of the cities and larger towns.

City fathers are talking about attracting the big restaurant chains and stores. I hope they don’t go out of their way. I prefer the locally owned and run shops and eateries and bars. The big guys will come, but let them come because we have the customers. But that’s not what I heard last week.

Last week I went to a hearing about the new hotel proposed along Fort Myers gorgeous new river basin. City Council had hired a group to represent the city.

That group brought in another group. Here was the essence of the proposal (which the people paid by the city thought was fair): Lease us the land for a dollar a year, long term lease from us all the spots in the parking garage we will build so we can get financing for it, give us the Harborside Event Center and we will run it, AND pay us $850,000 a year and in return we will build a 175 room hotel (on which we will make money because essentially the land was free and you, the city of Fort Myers, want it so bad you will pay us for it.). Oh yeah, and we will attract a national restaurant chain to the hotel for you as well. I say NO THANK YOU very much.

In my humble opinion the time for our cities to be holding their hats in their hands and hoping someone drops a silver coin in it instead of a turd in it is over. There are many reasons folk are coming back to the city, you don’t need to bribe them.

Fort Myers is attracting residents to places like OASIS and High Point and to the close in neighborhoods like Dean Park and Edison Park, York Manor because of economics: pure and simple.

We have old but well maintained and paid for infrastructure. The shopping districts are but a bike ride or walk away, and is some cases a free trolley will escort you around town.

We have the shopping, the medicine, the entertainment, the night life and the sports. Oh and water: water is everywhere. No gated communities, no bottle neck traffic patterns, but mature eclectic neighborhoods where the privileged and working class live on the same street.

And we are still a bargain. Oasis Condos for example as low as $200,000. (Oasis is the hottest property in the River District and has been selling well – and there should be no surprise there – prices are still way below replacement costs and the amenities are unsurpassed.

If you want a foot hold into the Lee County real estate market – buy at Oasis – you will not be disappointed).

I have a few map links for you to explore: (On any of these map searches you can just enter the city you wish to search in)

Fort Myers Downtown

Lehigh Acres Downtown

Sarasota Downtown

Cape Coral

Naples Downtown

Downtown Orlando

Downtown – the place to retire. Don’t believe everything Yogi says. He’s the guy that when asked what time it was he said:

“You mean NOW?”

The cities are the place to be then AND now.

Have a great day.

Gregg

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