The City of Fort Myers and Johnson Engineering had more than one reason to celebrate at the recent ribbon cutting of the City of Fort Myers Riverfront Redevelopment Downtown Detention Basin. The project earned the Florida Institute of Consulting Engineers (FICE) Engineering Excellence Award, recognizing our innovative approach to this project. The Downtown Detention Basin, Phase I, was one of nine grand award winners throughout the State of Florida.

Johnson Engineering is the civil engineering consultant responsible for the project. This urban stormwater retrofit project features a 1.3-acre wet detention area on a site formerly used for surface parking. The primary purpose of the basin is to treat stormwater in the City’s historic downtown area before discharging to the Caloosahatchee River, ultimately flowing to the Gulf of Mexico. The water quality treatment program was designed to reduce pollutants entering the river, improving health, safety and welfare for the public.

Other benefits include creation of valuable waterfront property for private investment and development opportunities, resulting in an expected regional economic impact of up to $67 million and up to 870 local permanent jobs. The basin serves as a focal point for public gatherings and events which utilize the available public spaces. The basin’s pathways provide public access, offering connectivity to the waterfront, along with passive recreation and healthy living benefits. Educational components help make the community aware of the natural resources, impacts humans have on water quality, strategies to improve the existing conditions, and how this affects the environment.

The project redefines general engineering and land-planning thinking that intensely developed urban areas are too encumbered and land values too high to accommodate stormwater treatment retrofit projects. This project is proof that water quality improvement projects can be achieved in a downtown location and can offer urban design features that promote redevelopment and stimulate the economy.