EnSite provided its full range of services for The Collaboratory, a public-private initiative between the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and the City of Fort Myers that serves as a vital link between the city’s past and its future. A recreated rail line from Central Avenue to Jackson Street that runs through the renovated building provides an indelible bond to the site’s history as an Atlantic Coast Line railway station from the 1920s to the 1970s and the Southwest Florida Museum of History from the 1980s until 2017.
The low-impact development is LEED Gold Certified with a Florida-friendly plant palette, a low-volume irrigation design system, recreated wetlands in the form of rain gardens, and permeable pavers. The Collaboratory is built to have zero water discharge during a 100-year storm, meaning it won’t contribute to flooding during heavy rain. EnSite partnered with Florida Power & Light’s SolarNow program to include solar trees — artistic, clean-energy structures that catch the sun to deliver clean, emissions-free energy but also provide shade — on the 3-acre property.
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. Connections to the neighboring Bennett-Hart Park and the newly constructed downtown Fort Myers fire station serve as part of The Collaboratory’s broader nexus between downtown and the traditionally underserved Dunbar community to the east. The renovation of the former train depot building and construction of a 15,000-square-foot addition to house the foundation’s headquarters, office space and community event facilities is designed to foster collaboration and philanthropic work that carries the inspiration, ingenuity and indomitable spirit of the city’s past into its future.