McCollum Hall – Restoring the future

 McCollum Hall – Restoring the future

Fort Myers has made its name largely on the historical legacy of people like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. There’s a lot more legacy here that deserves preservation, and that can further enhance the region’s prestige and economic vibrancy.

The McCollum Hall restoration project is now underway, bringing the promise of renewed energy and excitement to the place that once was a significant hub of our nation’s cultural heritage. Located in what was once considered the heart of the Dunbar community, the brick-faced building on the northeast corner of Cranford Dr. and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd had languished in a state of disrepair for many years, a fate entirely unbefitting a venue that proudly showcased such greats as Duke Ellington, B.B. King, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

Here at EnSite, we talk a lot about the future of a place. Mixed-use development, walkability and other “new urbanism” approaches often really amount to the application of smart, sustainable design principles to promote old-fashioned values like community engagement and pride. We are proud of the City of Fort Myers and the Community Redevelopment Agency for securing an important grant from the state to push the renovation past the starting gates.

With the Imaginarium Science Center occupying the opposite corner and McCollum Hall’s prospects of again becoming an active civic center for the Dunbar community, the footprint of Fort Myers’ cultural future grows. More than that, its cultural past paves the way. Some of the past needs to be left there, such as the policies and attitudes that had our jazz greats performing on a segregated “Chitlin Circuit.” The thing about the future, though, is it can be designed intelligently based on the lessons we choose to learn from the past.

We hope the city can achieve designation of McCollum Hall on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s going to take the will of the community and creativity on the part of our officials. And now that the exterior has gotten a facelift, another $2 million or so will be needed to bring the inside up to snuff. As the social media campaign asserts, #ThisPlaceMatters

Photo by Ebyabe

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