By Gary Tasman

When Hurricane Charley decimated parts of Charlotte County in 2004, it took years for the community to recover, but ultimately led to an evolution of downtown Punta Gorda. But while Punta Gorda has undergone a significant and noticeable revitalization, development across the river in Port Charlotte has progressed less dramatically.

That changed in late 2018, when Allegiant Air broke ground on its Sunseeker Resort Charlotte Harbor along the north bank of the Peace River. Although construction on the resort was stalled for 17 months, the continued sight of six large construction cranes that remained on site buoyed hopes that it would return to activity. As of August, crews have now resumed the work of building the partially-constructed project.

Changing the Landscape of Charlotte County

Development news in Charlotte County often takes a back seat to neighboring Sarasota and Lee Counties, but Sunseeker Resort will change the face of Port Charlotte—and not just its skyline. The $510 million project will also make a significant economic impact to a region that has been rapidly growing, albeit under the radar.

In the last decade, Charlotte County experienced a 26% increase in net migration—or the number of people moving to the county minus the number of people who moved away. And while Charlotte has a reputation for having one of our nation’s oldest populations, much of its recent population boom has been working age. Net migration among employed individuals increased by nearly 20% in Charlotte County over that same time period.

Babcock Ranch

The most heralded recent growth in the region is in Babcock Ranch, where the county has issued 1,433 single family permits in the last five years. The community, which has made headlines for being the first and only solar-powered community in the U.S., will eventually be home to more than 50,000 residents, including young families and working-age adults who commute to nearby Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, and Fort Myers. Although much of the land near Babcock is natural preserve, transportation corridors in these areas will likely see future development as commuter traffic to and from Babcock increases.

Punta Gorda Airport (PGD)

Another area experiencing rapid development is the Punta Gorda Airport (PGD), which has grown exponentially over the last decade, from a passenger count of 182,423 in 2010 to 1.19 million passengers in 2020. The airport is currently in the midst of a $12 million runway rehabilitation project, as well as development of its airport aviation expansion area, which will include a new General Aviation Center. Later this year, Allegiant will be joined at PGD by Sun Country airlines.

Not surprisingly, commercial development near the airport is springing up quickly. A North Carolina developer has received approval to build a 250,950 s.f. distribution center convenient to both I-75 and PGD. While the tenant has not been revealed, the developer has built five similar buildings in Florida which are all FedEx distribution centers. Although large, the facility would be about 174,000 s.f. smaller than the nearby Cheney Brothers distribution facility that opened in 2015 and expanded in 2020.

Murdock Circle and Murdock Village

A third rapidly growing area in the region is the Murdock Circle area. East of Murdock Circle, a flurry of construction is planned on Quesada Ave., Peachland Blvd., and Cochran Blvd., including a 103,000 s.f. BJ’s Wholesale Club. West of Murdock Circle lies the Murdock Village Community Redevelopment Area (CRA), future home to the Arredondo Pointe development. Arredondo

Pointe will include commercial, restaurant, retail, lodging, cultural spaces, and a 45-acre water park. Also in the CRA is West Port, a mixed-use community currently under construction with more than 2,400 residential units planned.

Sunseeker Resort Charlotte Harbor

While each of the above areas will have a substantial effect on the county, Sunseeker will likely have the most significant economic impact to the region since Hurricane Charley. The finished resort is expected to hold 500 guest rooms and 180 extended-stay suites, as well as 55,000 square feet of conference and meeting space, nearly 20 restaurants and bars, and retail outlets. In total, the resort is expected to employ 1,150 staffers, which would make Sunseeker the third- largest employer in the county when it opens as early as 2023.

As job opportunities in Charlotte County continue to grow, the subsequent domino effect will impact all types of development in the region. Employees will move to the area, sparking a need for more housing. As the population grows, so will commercial needs for retailers, restaurants, entertainment, health care, and other services. In total, Allegiant estimates the resort will bring an economic impact of $1 billion over the course of ten years and increase tourism to the area by as much as 300,000 visitors a year.

It’s been 17 years since Hurricane Charley changed the face of Charlotte County, and by 2023, we can expect to see the impact of the next wave of development in Charlotte. Are you prepared to grow with Charlotte County? To learn more about how the Commercial Property Experts at Cushman & Wakefield | Commercial Property Southwest Florida can assist you in your property investment strategy, call us at 239-489-3600 or by using the form below.

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