From my downtown Punta Gorda office, I’m watching the horizon change day by day as the 5 story Marriott SpringHill Suites is hoisting concrete slabs to become taller than the adjacent hotels. Back in the day, circa 1887 Punta Gorda welcomed wealthy visitors mostly via the railroad to the luxury Hotel Punta Gorda, which burned down in August of 1959.
In its place the PG waterfront Hotel now stands after many incarnations guarded by the massive Banyan Tree. For years the only resort around has been Fisherman’s Village, born from an old 1800s fishing pier used to transport ice to the Shrimp Fleets. The transformed menagerie of colorful wood frame shops, restaurants & efficiency rentals highlighted one of the few tourist destinations, complete with a marina hosting liveaboard boaters. Although it continues to grow & change, having purchased the prestigious IMPACT university campus, it could soon be dwarfed by newer proposed developments.
Aqui Esta Isle Residences, a 462 unit condominium community, was approved after the original plans for a multi-faceted resort got shot down under controversy, and will remain only 4 stories tall. Now, what many are touting as the new gem of Charlotte County, a Sunseeker 22-acre resort with proposed 9 tower condominium complex, with a hotel, several restaurants & bars, a marina & what has promised to be “North America’s largest private-resort swimming pool” is targeted to be developed along the Peace River in Port Charlotte, just across from historic downtown Punta Gorda.
For every enthusiastic resident excited about bringing fresh excitement to the area’s economy & destination attractions, there seem to be the dyed-in-the-wool advocate that wants to keep the area a secret, & maintain a laid back slow-paced retirement community. The current diversity of events includes World Championships powerboat off shore racing, an annual Wine & Jazz festival, with a healthy splattering of gallery walks, farmers markets & craft fairs. Comparing the newly opened 27-acre Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens, featuring meandering boardwalks & internationally acclaimed artwork, to the high paced glitz of Sunseeker resort is exactly the type of contrast locals have the option to enjoy. I personally like the former “It’s Happening on the Harbor” city slogan, targeted to be replaced by “Florida’s Harbor Hometown” which is not the direction things seem to be heading.
What’s your take on the upcoming development of Charlotte County?
Originally from Maryland, Debra Gurin has lived in Punta Gorda since 1999. A member of the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce, she has taken great pride in watching the revitalization and development of the city. Her real estate business is enhanced by a background in architectural design, and her knowledge of the waterways as an avid sailor.
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