Gardner’s Park – from Guava orchard to arts district
“If you build it, they will come” worked well in Field of Dreams, but it’s a dream come true when we get to envision a new, vibrant future for a quiet, 1920’s-era neighborhood district. We’re fortunate to have such an opportunity with Gardner’s Park, which is poised to become a destination for art, shopping, dining and recreation—and a place for artists to work, live and support their livelihoods.
Located just east of the Downtown River District of Fort Myers, Gardner’s Park is bordered by Fowler Street to the west, Evans Street to the east, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the south and the Caloosahatchee River to the north. When the Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency initiated a planning effort to redevelop this older, established neighborhood in the fall of 2014, Ensite took its lead from the community. Residents and business owners participated enthusiastically in the preparation of a conceptual plan that honors the area’s history and quiet charm while cultivating excitement for its unrealized potential.
Gardner’s Park possesses many existing assets that contribute to its welcoming ambience, including older homes and big trees. A mixed-use approach plus an emphasis on creating a high-quality public realm have already ushered in plenty of excitement, and several interesting new businesses have appeared in the neighborhood. Walkable blocks with sidewalks, street trees, on-street parking and numerous pocket parks and community gardens would encourage connectivity and access for residents and visitors. Capitalizing on green spaces and landscaped areas is also a fitting way to acknowledge the area’s past as a guava orchard. This history is preserved in the beautiful Gardner’s Park logo, which would grace the arching gateway features that define the district, according to our plan.
Teaming up with the residents of Gardner’s Park has been a fulfilling process to help protect the unique character of a historic neighborhood that is anchored by the arts and special events while providing enhanced economic opportunity.