The Southwest Florida Community Foundation celebrated the beginning of construction on its new Collaboratory facility on Thursday.
The Collaboratory is a public-private partnership between the foundation and the City of Fort Myers that will be housed in the soon to be renovated Atlantic Coast Line railway station in midtown. The building has hosted the Southwest Florida Museum of History for many years but the museum has recently moved into the Imaginarium making the facility available for the new collaboration.
The renovation will include the construction of a 10,000 square foot addition that will house the foundation’s regional headquarters, office space for tenants, and facilities for community events. The foundation is funding the project through a $10 million New Market Tax Credit deal, a program that assists with economic development in distressed neighborhoods.
Foundation CEO Sarah Owen spoke about the how the new project would help preserve the historic train station building while adding the additional facilities that would allow it to fill the needs of the community.
“This beautiful, historic Atlantic Coast depot has had such a rich history in our community,”said Owen. “Ever since the foundation and the city announced that we were entering a partnership to create something new here I can not tell you how many people come to tell me stories about this train depot… We want to honor that history but also look towards the future. We want to build the new rail, the new connectivity, the new place people come together.”
Owen also explained that the renovation would involve integrating state of the art technology into the facility.
“All of the technology in the building will allow live streaming, live capture, the sharing of information,” said Owen. “The partnership with Florida LambdaRail gives us high-speed broadband access and access to data that has never been available to the non-profit of private community before.”
Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson said that this project was important for Fort Myers economic future and that he was grateful for the work the foundation members and city staff put in to make it a reality.
“None of us are confused about what this means. This means economy and jobs. This means sophistication,” said Henderson. “Every mayor in our 413 cities in Florida want this kind of [development] going on.”
Construction on the Collaboratory is expected to be completed by the summer of 2018.
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