Fort Myers, Florida

Fort Myers, population 62,298 (2010), is located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, roughly 100 miles south of Tampa. It is the county seat of Lee County and one of two major cities in the Cape Coral/Fort Myers SMA, which has a population of 618,000 (2010). In 2008, the City adopted a Downtown Smart Code, amended in 2010 and 2012, intended to promote smart growth goals including mixed uses, diverse housing types, walk-ability, compact development and the protection of ecological/cultural resources. To implement these goals, the Downtown Smart Code allows buildings to exceed a baseline density and height when developers supply any of seven criteria, some of which can be located at the development site or an off-site location. Consequently, the effect is that of a TDR mechanism although the Fort Myers Smart Code does not use the term TDR.


Bonus building density and height are permitted in three downtown zoning districts through the planned unit development process at the sole discretion of the City Council. Bonus density is awarded on the following percentage basis.

  • Affordable-workforce/community housing (10%) – The housing can be on or off-site within one mile of downtown. To qualify, developers must build one affordable unit per 50 market rate units or pay a cash contribution of $120,000 (as adjusted annually by the Consumer Price Index) to the downtown moderate housing trust fund.
  • Para-transit/pedestrian connection between public and private (6%) – To qualify, developers must contribute $51.14 per unit (adjusted annually per the Consumer Price Index) to the downtown para-transit trust fund.
  • Mandatory public open space (10%) – This public open space can be located on site or anywhere within the downtown redevelopment area.
  • Mixed use/retail-office-residential (12%) – To qualify, the development must meet mixed use percentages that differ between the three zoning districts. For example, the Urban General District criteria are 80-90 percent residential and 10-20 percent office/commercial.
  • Public parking (12%) – To qualify, developers must contribute $20,000 (adjusted annually by the Consumer Price Index) per ten parking spaces to a city fund for downtown parking.
  • Water-dependent uses open to the public (10%) – These include public marinas, yacht clubs, boat ramps and parks. A non-waterfront development may achieve 100% of the potential bonus by prorating this 10% to the six other criteria.
  • Exceptional/architectural/site design (40%) – To judge architectural quality, the City may rely on a panel of architects.

When developers meet all the criteria, the City Council can use the PUD process to award bonus density in the following manner depending on the zoning district of the development:

  • Urban General: baseline 6 units/acre, maximum with bonus: 12 units/acre
  • Urban Center: baseline 25 units/acre, maximum with bonus: 40 units/acre
  • Urban Core: baseline 35 units/acre, maximum with bonus: 70 units/acre.