Sneak Preview in Punta Gorda

Nancy Johnson, CEO

In June the community got the opportunity to listen to a sneak preview of the new, and still-in-the-works Punta Gorda Master Plan. Presented by Mitchell Austin, of the City’s Urban Design team, the presentation shared some of the new ideas we can expect.

Dover Kohl and Partners, a highly creative consulting firm from Coral Gables, Florida, has been the lead on the master plan project since it began in January. The first pass of the plan will reach City Council and the public in August.

The project was designed in three segments. It kicked off with an economic development study of the City’s finances. The second phase was the community vision that was done through well-attended public charettes (workshops) that many of us attended this Spring. As most of the ideas in the plan are private sector projects, the premise is that developers will want to build them for us. This will require the City to take a fresh look at its Land Development Regulations (LDR’s). Fortunately, this is the third phase of the project as it is critical to getting actual projects built.

Some of the ideas include an innovative (but likely expensive) decorative lighting plan for the bridges across the harbor; a frontage road for the Burnt Store area as an alternative to the current practice of cutting through residential neighborhoods to exit the Burnt Store Promenade shopping center; more diversity in housing options creating new neighborhoods on unused land; and a traffic signal near the Wyvern on Route 41.

There were two scenarios for city Marketplace, the long-suffering property at the center of our community. It has also been the center of discussion since 2005. One scenario puts a proposed Performing Arts Center there. I love the idea of a performing arts center for Punta Gorda, but wonder if there is enough space there for parking and traffic? Another idea calls for a u-shaped group of buildings with retail on the first floor and condos above. The presentation pointed out that in order to be financially viable to developers, it would have to be 6 stories and about 75 feet high. While hardly a feared high-rise, it would require an LDR revision or a variance. It was noted that with this many units (as opposed to the three or four story versions never built) the developer could perhaps be persuaded to leave an attractive park-like public plaza in the center, which we would all enjoy.

Among the areas still to be addressed are transportation and bicycle-pedestrian infrastructure. We encourage those who are interested to view the presentation at the City’s website and we eagerly look forward to the finished plan.

Nancy Johnson is the CEO of TEAM Punta Gorda. TEAM Punta Gorda is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Ideas or questions can be addressed to team@teampuntagorda.org