Affordable townhouses named Towles Gardens are planned in Lee County

A 7.63 acre parcel of Fort Myers is slated to become an affordable housing community which will be known as Towles Gardens and will have 140 units.

Prince Jones, originally from New York, moved to the area and became CEO of My-Canvas Inc. He collaborates with Frankie Jennings, CEO of FJ Services Sales & Marketing, who is leading this project with the help of regional developer Robert MacFarlane .

Roy Kennix was also involved in the project, which is expected to cost at least $ 30 million.

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Planned to be built on the southwest corner of Veronica Shoemaker Boulevard and Edison Avenue, Towles Gardens will give low-income residents the rare opportunity to purchase townhouses and villas and have the chance to earn capital instead of helping a landlord pay his or her own mortgage with rent.

One, two and three bedroom units are being designed.

“We put together a team,” Kennix said. “We went to Robert MacFarlane. We asked him about his interest in the project. He had made affordable housing. He could build it and we could operate it. It would be a collaboration. We got together and came up with a proposal. “

A wooded lot at the southwest corner of Edison Avenue and Veronica Shoemaker Boulevard that is slated to become Towles Gardens, a planned townhouse community that promotes itself as affordable housing.

The result: 51% of Towles Gardens buyers must earn 80% or less of the city’s median household income.

Jennings, who will market the units with the help of Yvonne Hill, needed a broker. She kept hearing about Jones.

“We spoke and he accepted the leadership as our listed broker,” Jennings said. “It really is a story for Fort Myers. The diversity we have in this build is rare here in Fort Myers. But we were lucky to work with a strong developer. “

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Jones said he couldn’t wait to get started. But the developer is facing administrative delays in obtaining the permit to begin construction. Until MacFarlane can break through the field, Jones cannot hit the ground by selling these units. He has set up an office at 2400 First St. for those who wish to gather information.

“You are going to create jobs for the minorities who are working on this project,” Jones said.

Jones wants to see business brokers looking to improve the brands available to his community. Adding a branded grocery store, for example, would help.

“There’s nothing along Martin Luther King for people to buy groceries,” Jones said, other than convenience stores or dollar stores. “We’re just trying to help the economy. So grandmother can walk to the store.

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Johnnie Streets, city councilor for Fort Myers, defends this project.

“The government doesn’t work fast,” Streets said of some of the delays. “Sometimes we don’t work fast enough for people. We need to remove some of the paperwork. “

Bob DeSantis works for McFarlane as Executive Director of Towles Gardens LLC. He said he hoped to break into the field by the end of this summer.

“There have been a lot of delays in transferring ownership of the land and the development agreement between us and the city,” DeSantis said. “Our engineering is almost complete. And the funding is almost done.

There are also environmental aspects. The property is full of native trees, including oaks.

“We’re going to save as many as possible,” DeSantis said. “The big oaks, of course. And 20% of our land we get has to be used for stormwater storage. We cannot build on it.

“But this project is not just another affordable rental unit. It is a question of ownership. “

Affordable housing projects near these neighborhoods are needed, and DeSantis has said he doesn’t want to stop developing them once it’s launched.

“We are actively researching a lot of properties right now,” DeSantis said. “We want to do more projects like Towles Gardens right now. We want to make plans for veterans. We’re buying a lot of land right now. “

A wooded lot at the southwest corner of Edison Avenue and Veronica Shoemaker Boulevard that is slated to become Towles Gardens, a planned townhouse community that promotes itself as affordable housing.

Habitat Humanity welcomes six new families

Habib and Moulkheir Benali moved to the United States from their native Algeria 32 years ago.

Over the past 14 years, they have moved from rental home to rental home four times the total in Lee County.

That whole move will come to an end this summer, when the family moves into their new home in Heritage Heights, a Habitat for Humanity community across from the Kelly Road soccer complex, just south of Gladiolus Drive and near Harlem Heights.

“It’s amazing,” said Habib Benali, who works in an ice cream shop at Coconut Point in Estero. “It’s a dream come true. This is what we are working for. The American dream.”

Habib and Moulkheir Benali stand with their Habitat for Humanity home sponsors at Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church after receiving the keys to their new home.

The Benalis were one of six families present on Friday morning for an inauguration ceremony, the start of a planned community of 150 homes. About 50 houses on the north side of a water retention lake will be built first. Development of the south side will take place in the coming years.

Habitat for Humanity purchased the 20-acre site for $ 1.4 million in 2016.

Companies like SHIP, FineMark National Bank & Trust, and FHL Bank of Atlanta were instrumental in funding the project among many other donors.

“I would call it a full circle moment,” said Becky Lucas, CEO of Habitat for Humanity in Lee and Hendry County. “Nine hundred feet in this direction was our first Habitat home in Lee County 41 years ago. And the family still lives there.

Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller, who died in 2009, visited Fort Myers over four decades ago and settled there.

“He had a megaphone and a billboard for Habitat for Humanity,” Lucas said. “He inspired people to help and build homes.”

Generosity becomes contagious. Homeowners who move into Habitat homes accept 300 hours of community service. They are able to buy them at appraised value, which in this community is in the range of $ 180,000.

Home buyers must earn less than 80% of average annual income.

“There is an interest-free mortgage, which makes it affordable,” said Vince Modarelli, Habitat vice president for strategic partnerships. “Habitat for Humanity’s mission is to help other neighbors find housing.”

Connect with this reporter: David Dorsey (Facebook), @DavidADorsey (Twitter).

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