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Two significant homes could be on the move to Matanzas Pass

By Staff | May 18, 2017

Who needs Breakfast at Tiffany’s when you could have breakfast at the beach?

Lee County has been the home to many notable figures, and Fort Myers Beach could get a taste of old Hollywood fame. Audrey Hepburn used to spend the winter in Boca Grande, and Lee County wants to save her cottage and move it to Fort Myers Beach.

“It’s not just any house,” said Suzanne Katt, Vice Chair of the town’s Local Planning Agency. “There is some panache associated with it.”

Lee County’s Jesse Lavender approached the Local Planning Agency at its May 9 meeting to take the town’s temperature at accepting the home. Boca Grande donated the home to Lee County, because a builder is seeking to construct a new home on the cottage’s current site. Now, the county needs somewhere to put it.

LPA member Megan Heil said at first, the LPA wasn’t keen on taking in a cottage with no significance to Fort Myers Beach. But when Lavender finally let slip that the structure wasn’t just any old beach cottage, but that of the Golden Age star, some minds started changing.

Lee County also threw in a little more to up the ante: the Lee County School Board owns property near the Estero Island Historical Society at Matanzas Pass Preserve. The county wants to convince the school board to sell part of that land to the county- and then, the historical society could have the Hepburn home as its education center, complete with a parking lot to serve it.

Katt said the size of the property might allow multiple historic cottages to be placed there, which perfectly meshes with another home on the move.

Developer Joe Orlandini has agreed to help save the 1940-age cottage at 3360 Estero Boulevard. His business partner, Michael Huffman, owns the property.

Orlandini and his partners have two single-family homes planned for that site. Orlandini said they had no idea there was any significance to the cottage until the town’s principle planner, Matt Noble, got a “barrage” of emails and calls from concerned residents.

“Unbeknownst to us, it’s (the historical society’s) iconic picture,” he said.

The quaint white cottage with a brick chimney and red shutters is featured on one of the society’s sets of watercolor notecards.

Orlandini agreed to help move the tiny home, at his expense. He estimated it will cost a ballpark $90,000 from the movement to final placement. But it’s not his first historic move.

“It will be tough, but it’s light, it’s small. Delicate but not heavy,” he said. “I have done this before. This one will be unique – They’re all unique.”

There are two historic cottages on Orlandini’s property. However, one of them has had a lot of additions and post-work done, and is not in good condition, he said.

Orlandini plans to first move the home to a vacant lot so construction on his two homes can begin soon. Then, he’s hoping to move it to Matanzas Pass Preserve to become a piece in the historical society’s museum.

“It will be an asset to that area and will be great for the community,” he said.

Ultimately, town council will have to approve its placement and movement. Orlandini is hoping the process can be expedited so the home does not have to sit too long before traveling to its final resting place.

“It won’t last long sitting around,” he said.

Both Orlandini’s and the Hepburn cottages are time-sensitive projects, Heil said, so the LPA had to make a decision. The board is recommending approval of the moves to town council, and Heil has her fingers crossed it will be approved.

“There are some really cool things happening here,” she said. “And, we need to comment Joe for doing this.”

There was discussion at the meeting about how the town could encourage builders to save cottages instead of raze them – especially if those builders had an option to move the structure from their property and give it to the town.

“They’re tearing them down and building these concrete mausoleums,” Katt said. “It’s their right, but in the meantime our history is being lost.”

If the county holds up its end and gets the property from the school board, there could be an opportunity for a commune of historic cottages to be gathered there, near the historic society. The property has the potential to hold between four and six cottages. Katt said the historic society may not be in the business of acquiring homes, but it might have to in order to preserve the historic buildings on the island.

“Let’s face it, if we want to save them we will have to move them,” she said.