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Reilly Brothers building, and one time train depot to be demolished.

Fort Myers News-Press

The almost century-old building that housed Reilly Brothers hardware store and had been a Fort Myers train station between 1927 and 1952, is being demolished this coming week.

Those who want to catch a last glimpse had better hurry and stay behind the fence near 3026 E. Riverside Drive, north of Palm Beach Boulevard, just east of downtown Fort Myers.

Four photos were merged together to make this photo. Reilly Brothers, which had been a hardware store from 1968 until 2007 and had been a train depot prior to that, will be demolished soon. The new owner has different ideas to redevelop the five-acre lot, but he’s going to see how things play out with the pandemic and the economic repercussions from it. The building is falling apart and can’t be saved. (Photo: Andrea Melendez/The News-Press/USA Today Florida Network)

Reilly Brothers moved there in 1968 and closed in 2007 at what had been the abandoned Seaboard Air Line Railroad Station. The late Jim Reilly often said Henry Ford used this station when he wanted to arrive in secrecy. From there, he would walk to his vacation home off McGregor Boulevard.

The late ‘60s saw the arrival of the hardware store after the closure of the railway.

“We kept running the business until 1993, when my husband passed away,” Laura Reilly, wife of the late Jim Reilly Sr., told me last fall, when I first heard the buildings would be demolished. Then their son continued operating the hardware and plumbing supply store until 2007.

The City of Fort Myers issued the demolition permits July 22.

Randy Price, a real estate developer from western Michigan who has spent the past 20 years visiting Fort Myers for vacations, bought the property plus the adjacent former gas station. He combined them into a five-acre parcel.

Price purchased the Reilly Brothers location for $1.2 million in 2018 and added the out-of-business former Mobil gas station fronting Palm Beach Boulevard for $300,000 last year. He had intended to build a self-storage facility. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crunch prompted him to put any future development on hold. He wants to see how things play out financially and explore other long-term opportunities.

“Right now, I just want to get the buildings demolished,” Price said. “They’re a bit of an eyesore and a bit of a hazard. We’ve had instances of people taking advantage of them lying vacant and so forth.

“We want to get the demolition done and get the lot cleaned up.”

For now, Price will leave the metal building on the north side of the property standing, as he allows a local non-profit organization to use it for storage.

“We’re looking at several different opportunities for the property,” said Price, who also developed Mandolin Bay Villas in Fort Myers and owns restaurant groups and other properties in Michigan.

“I liked the direction the city’s going,” Price said of Fort Myers. “There’s a lot of energy. I invested in that property. I had done some research on what used to be there. The building itself however is so far gone, so deteriorated, both from termite infestation and just the way it’s been put together over the years. There’s nothing of architectural historical significance there. We had that looked at by the city before we got our demolition permit.”

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David Dorsey (Facebook), @DavidADorsey (Twitter).

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