The Greater Dunbar Initiative, a $300 million project designed to revitalize a portion of the Dunbar community east of downtown Fort Myers, has received $8 million in federal funding.
“My vision for this city is that we be one, united city — a great place to live, work and raise a family,” Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson says in a statement. “This is a big, $300 million project, so every little bit that comes in helps toward reaching that goal, fulfilling that dream and making that vision come true.”
The funding announcement, which will be awarded to the Housing Authority of the City of Fort Myers, comes nearly two years after the project received a separate $30 million grant through the federal Choice Neighborhood Initiative. The $8 million, according to a statement, is split between $5 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and a $3 million federal appropriation. U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, “a longtime advocate for affordable housing in Southwest Florida,” the release states, secured the federal appropriation.
The $5 million portion, the release adds, “will support The Greater Dunbar Initiative in overcoming rising construction costs and improving housing options within the Southward Village public housing community in Fort Myers.”
The $3 million in funding, meanwhile, will go toward the first phase of The Greater Dunbar Initiative. That includes a 92-unit housing development on Cleveland Avenue to house residents while the Housing Authority completes the large-scale revitalization of the Southward Village community.
The plan at Southward Village is to turn the 37-acre, 199-unit development into a “mixed-income community (that) improves existing affordable housing units for residents while expanding choices (and) creating market-rate amenities.” Initial plans called for 375 new mixed-income apartments, supported with new infrastructure and complemented with amenities. In addition to improved housing, the project also includes plans for a new grocery store, revitalization of the farmers market and added retail, dining and entertainment.
Housing Authority officials recognized Donalds during an April 13 event with a Community Impact Award. “These dollars will play an essential role in furthering the Greater Dunbar Initiative and creating a lasting impact within the greater Dunbar community for years to come,” Housing Authority of the City of Fort Myers Executive Director Marcia Davis says in the release. “We are grateful for HUD’s support of this cause – along with U.S. Congressman Byron Donalds, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and many others for their efforts to champion this funding — as these resources will help provide new opportunities for residents in our region.”
In June 2021, the Greater Dunbar Initiative was selected as one of five initiatives nationwide, and the only in Florida, to receive a federal Choice Neighborhood Initiative grant. That grant was awarded through HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant program.