Fort Myers was one of the first forts built along the Caloosahatchee River as a base of operations against the Seminole Indians. Fort Denaud, Fort Thompson, and Fort Dulany (Punta Rassa) all pre-date Fort Myers.
Fort Myers first became a nationally known winter resort with the building of the Royal Palm Hotel in 1898. Access was greatly improved with the opening of a 28-mile (45 km) extension of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad from Punta Gorda to Fort Myers on May 10, 1904, giving Lee County both passenger and freight service. But what really sparked the city's growth was the construction of the Tamiami Trail Bridge across the Caloosahatchee River in 1924. After the bridge's construction, the city experienced its first real estate boom, and many subdivisions sprouted around the city.
Cape Coral was founded in 1957. Real estate developers Leonard and Jack Rosen purchased a 103-square-mile (270 km2) tract known as Redfish Point for $678,000 in that year and, in 1958, began development of the city as a master-planned, pre-platted community.
In its early years, Cape Coral was known as a community with many retired residents. This changed with a population and construction boom in the 1990s, which brought in younger families and professionals. Twenty percent of the population is seasonal residents. Nowadays, the city has a wide variety of businesses, retail shops and restaurants on its major arteries: Cape Coral Parkway, Del Prado Boulevard, Santa Barbara Boulevard and Pine Island Road.
VISITING FORT MYERS, FLORIDA
Some call it Downtown Fort Myers. Others know it as the historic River District or the City of Palms (drive down McGregor Boulevard and you'll know why). Whatever its name, since Thomas Edison and Henry Ford established their winter estates here, this Southern influenced town has grown into a city with attractions and atmosphere worthy of a bigger city's envy.
One of the world's safest family beaches.
Before bridges connected Estero Island to the mainland, Fort Myers Beach was a 7-mile stretch of coastline known for its shallow water, no undertow and little else. These days, the safe beaches remain, along with family-friendly resorts, charming Gulf-side seafood restaurants and nightlife that gets going just after yet another immaculate sunset. Where this island really shines is in the various recreation possibilities outdoor enthusiasts enjoy like Lovers Key State Park, where back bays and mangrove forests make for great kayaking and wildlife watching.
Removed, and only seemingly remote.
There are no stoplights on Sanibel or Captiva, and there are no buildings taller than the tallest palm tree. Both serve as a reminder of what happens when we leave well enough alone. For generations, people have escaped over the three-mile causeway to a different pace of life - one that includes ungroomed white sand beaches filled with thousands of shells, great seafood restaurants, unmatched wildlife viewing and a family focused village atmosphere where only the absolutely necessary parts of civilization are included.
VISITING LEHIGH ACRES, FLORIDA
Lehigh Acres got its start in the mid 1950s when Chicago businessman Lee Ratner needed a tax shelter. He had sold his pest control business, and he faced the possibility of losing most of his earnings to the high capital gains tax of that era. Ratner heard that cattle was a good investment for people in his predicament, and he bought 18,000 acres (73 km2) of land in eastern Lee County and named it the Lucky Lee Ranch. After ranching for a while, and despite having no prior development experience, Ratner joined with Gerald H. Gould, a Florida advertising executive, Manuel Riskin, a Chicago CPA, and Edward Shapiro, a former Chicagoan who was in the real estate business in California, and began land sales at Lehigh Acres.
Gerald Gould was the president of the corporation that developed Lehigh Acres which began in business in 1954. He remained as president until the company was sold in 1972.
Since the days of the Lucky Lee Ranch, the boundaries of Lehigh Acres have stretched to cover 61,000 acres (250 km2), including the runways of the former Buckingham Army Airfield, a major Army Air Forces training base that was closed at the end of World War II. The pasture land where Ratner's cattle roamed and the since broken up runways where military flight crews trained has been divided into some 152,000 0.25-acre (1,000 m2) and 0.5-acre (2,000 m2) lots for housing, along over eleven thousand miles of roads. Strips of land along major thoroughfares, such as Homestead Road and Lee Boulevard, were set aside for commerce. In 1997, nearly 90% of Lehigh Acres' lots remained vacant.
In 1992, Lee County, with the cooperation of a new developer, declared Lehigh Acres to be blighted, which authorized its Community Redevelopment Agency to take steps towards improving infrastructure and planning elements neglected by the original developer. It is estimated that nearly $11 million would be needed to repave the developments roads.
2000s: Boom and Bust
A surge in housing prices led to a boom in Lehigh Acres new-housing construction from 2003 to 2007, peaking at more than 7,500 new homes constructed in 2006. The number of homes built during this period exceeded the total number of homes constructed during the preceding 50 years.
But as in much of the United States, the real-estate boom of the 2000s went bust. The median house price in the Ft. Myers area peaked in late 2005 at $322,300. Three years later, it had plummeted to $106,900. A reliance on construction jobs no longer available pushed the unemployment rate in the area of Lehigh Acres and Fort Myers to 14% by the summer of 2009. Property values in Lehigh Acres dropped 25% in 2008, and another 50% in 2009.
VISITING CAPE CORAL, FLORIDA
Sun splashed days and balmy nights mean funtastic playtime fantasies come true in Cape Coral. Sandcastles, beaches, boats and bait fill leisure time in this coastal community that boasts more than 400 miles of canals, plus lakes and a mega-river. The city has a water-filled treat of its own design. Sun Splash Family Waterpark offers more than two dozen wet and dry attractions on 15 tropical acres. Loll in a tube while gentle currents take you on a sightseeing voyage around the park. Or grip the sides and grit your teeth while you pitch and plummet in Cape Fear's 225-foot black tunnel.
Prefer less orchestrated activities? Drift down to the Yacht and Racquet Club and let the kids frolic at the riverfront while you drop a line from the pier nearby.
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