Recently I have written about a proposed business incubator being targeted for the former Impac University and business performance consulting company site in the downtown historic district of Punta Gorda.
After much public backlash, the Charlotte County Commissioners voted to delay any vote to go ahead with the $2.5 million purchase of this property as it was seen by many as too risky a gamble with the tight budget constraints the county is facing.
So what does this have to do with Murdock Village you ask? Well, for 10 years the taxpayers of Charlotte County Florida have had to bear the brunt of the interest fees on this more than $100 million purchase that many feel should never have happened in the first place and the thought of adding another $2-3 million purchase to the tax rolls with no definite users in sight for this property has outraged many in the private sector.
With over 870 acres of undeveloped land that was “acquired through a controversial mix of financial bonding and eminent domain,” Murdock Village still lays dormant and many question if this projected mixed use “entertainment” focal point will ever get off the ground.
Planned as a tourist destination accommodating three distinctly different venues from a water theme park, a music and entertainment district and a state of the art baseball youth experience, this was to be the key development in the economic revitalization of Port Charlotte and the surrounding area. Main Street, was the music and entertainment venue with robust plans to construct 400,000 square feet of theater space, 240,000 square feet of commercial retail space, and 500 multi-family units around two guitar shaped lakes and amphitheaters, similar to the entertainment district in Branson, Missouri.
Main Street which was the brainchild of Jay Goldberg, worked for over two years receiving the Charlotte County Commissioners approval for his conceptual plan however, on September 11, 2012 it was reported in the Charlotte Sun that Mr. Goldberg was unable to raise the $220 million in the 18 month timeframe needed to fund his ambitious project and Main Street was “scrapped.” While this was a major blow to the excitement generated by all three venues, the “cornerstone” of the Murdock Village site is a $130 million waterpark and resort to be built by Water Park Venture Management Services which have developed other resorts in Wisconsin and Tennessee. This project creatively spearheaded by Southwest Developers partners Bruce Laishley and Rick Treworgy agreed to swap 137 acres in Murdock Village owned by the county for 33 acres of shovel ready property owned by their company at Enterprise Charlotte Airport Park near the Punta Gorda Airport.
Now their project along with the possibility of luring in the Ripkin Baseball Experience venue could be the best hope Charlotte County has to develop the former General Development subdivision that cost the taxpayers $1.9 million last year alone or more than $5,000 a day in interest.
According to County Commissioners Stephen R. Deutsch and Robert Skidmore, aside from the infrastructure and natural gas issues, it all comes down to funding. “Financing is the biggest hurdle,” as many investors and large lenders are backing away from projects on this scale with the state of the economy. One can only hope the determination of those promoting these projects can find the resources that would give the economic boost the county so desperately needs.