New developments bring face-lift to SW Florida

Punta Gorda Herald — December 11, 2017

OUR VIEW: New developments bring face-lift to SW Florida

OUR POSITION: Developers are optimistic several projects that will drive growth and taxable income in Charlotte and Sarasota counties are moving ahead on schedule.

A water park, hundreds of new housing units, the largest pool in North America, a Major League Baseball spring training facility, hotels and shops — all of that is on the near horizon for Southwest Florida.  And, even the naysayers who worry about traffic and other side effects of growth should feel good about the financial ramifications and opportunities for jobs and entertainment.

After decades of inaction, Charlotte County and South Sarasota County drew the interest of entrepreneurs and developers the past couple of years. That interest is paying off in investment in housing and entertainment venues that will inject a new level of appeal into an area known for its fishing and beaches. And, it will also mean a bountiful booty of taxes when all the projects are completed — easing the burden on homeowners.

Each of the projects we featured on today’s front page has been written about extensively. And, each of them has endured some criticism — mostly from the anti-growth crowd.

We certainly understand the willingness to sit back and enjoy what we have. It’s easy to say we don’t want more traffic. It’s normal to be concerned about a few thousand more people trampling our beaches and parks.

But, the big picture is not bleak. It’s downright rosy.

Sunseeker Resort is set to be built along Charlotte Harbor’s waterfront. It will employ hundreds and bring about 300,000 visitors a year here. Those visitors will have little reason to crowd our roads because the resort will feature 10 restaurants, a clinic and pharmacy, entertainment venues and a 1,000-foot-long pool. Its developers tout a $1 billion-a-year economic impact.

Babcock Ranch, a one-of- a-kind community in eastern Charlotte County, has seemingly been around for a long time. But the solar powered city is ready to bloom with its first residents expected to move in next month. Syd Kitson, who nurtured and guided the development, expects 1,000 homes by the end of this month. Those homes, which will range from about $190,000 to more than $1 million, will provide an enticing tax revenue.

And let’s not forget West Villages in North Port. The sprawling, fast-growing project, consisting of several smaller developments, will have its own downtown, an Atlanta Braves spring training facility and more than 20,000 homes some day.

The Lost Lagoon development in Murdock Village, which will be called Arredondo, brings a lot of excitement with it. It will feature an Orlando type water park, hotels and shopping that will make Charlotte County a destination for all of Florida. This is the youngest of the major developments we featured, but it could be the biggest game-changer for a county looking to get younger.

And, finally, we have Private Equity Group, and its plans to build two expansive housing developments — one in Murdock Village near the Tampa Bay Rays spring training complex and the other off Veterans Boulevard, near Interstate 75. These are the homes where the folks who work at the water park, hotels and new stores will live.

We would implore those who are comfortable now and don’t want change to be patient and experience the transformation with optimism.

If, and when, these developments come to fruition, it will change the face of our area — we think for the good.