The Atlantic Coast Line Railway depot in downtown Fort Myers served as a community hub, and a connection to the outside world, for decades beginning in 1924 all the way up until closing in 1971. But, it was also emblematic of racial segregation throughout its time as a depot. It sat empty for about a decade before becoming the Southwest Florida Museum of History, where people of all backgrounds could come together and learn about this region’s history -- the good and the bad.
But, then the museum merged with the Imaginarium Science Center, becoming the I-Mag History and Science Center a few years ago, so the depot building was again sitting empty. And that’s where the Southwest Florida Community Foundation comes into the story. Thanks to a public-private partnership with the City of Fort Myers, many generous donors, and a $10-million dollar New Market Tax Credit which encourages development in distressed neighborhoods, the foundation re-opened the depot as a reimagined, high tech, workplace last October called the Collaboratory. We learn about what's happening there, and what’s going to be happening there moving forward, from President and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, Sarah Owen.