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Murdock Village can become an accelerator for the Port Charlotte area!
MURDOCK — A group of area businessmen is optimistic it has found a second potential suitor to occupy a portion of Murdock Village outlined in a massive land swap with Charlotte County.
Now, the businessmen just have to persuade foreign investors to foot the bill.
The Enterprise Charlotte Economic Council is courting European Investors who frequently vacation in Southwest Florida and have expressed interest in Murdock Village.
The council is hosting a luncheon today for prospects at the Laishley Crab House in Punta Gorda, where local business leaders hope to wine-and-dine them into an agreement. Although aspects of the proposed deal are still confidential, officials said part of the early blueprint calls for an upscale, European-style shopping mall to sit on portions of the long vacant property, indentified in a proposed land trade between the county and Southwest Land Developers, a local engineering and land acquisition firm.

A residential subdivision targeted for wealthy European vacationers would also be built on an djacent parcel. Southwest Land Developers is already nearing an agreement to house a $ 110 million water park resort at the 137-acre strip lining State Road 776 in Port Charlotte. Company representatives said the mail and subdivision could be the next pieces to the puzzle- ultimately creating a downtown-like entertainment district ideal for vacationers. “ A lot of Europeans really like the beaches in America” said Bruce Laishley, co-owner of Southwest Land Developers. Murdock Village doesn’t have a beach, but 12 miles down the four-lane road and you are there. These people really want to be in Murdock Village. Now, it’s just about putting it all together.

The mall would be similar to a luxury open-air market, with dozens of vendors selling everything from upscale suits to European delicacies. The foreign investment group has also discussed purchasing about 50 acres of Murdock Village from the county to build a nearby residential subdivision. Rather than relying on lenders, project developers hope to secure funding through the EB-5 program, under which foreigners can obtain U.S. citizenship for investing at least $1 million into Charlotte County.
The enterprise council and Southwest Land Developers are hosting a lunch reception today to brief the county commissioners on the proposal and welcome foreign stakeholders to the area. Ivan Cernaj, the mayor of Ziarnad Hronom, a city of about 20,000 in Slovakia, will also be attending the event to drum up interest from other European prospects.

While nothing has been finalized, those close to the deal hope the reception today leads to some sort of commitment. County staff couldn’t comment on the proposal due to a confidentiality agreement. “If we have people coming from overseas, we have to show them we want their money “, Commission Chairman Bob Starr said. “ We have to be competitive, and all of these things go together. The bottom line is there has to be something in it for the Charlotte County taxpayers, We need to create jobs and diversify our economy.”

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the land swap at their Jan. 25 meeting- an essential first step to make both of the water park and European venture come to fruition.
In return for the 137 acres at Murdock Village, the trade would give Charlotte about 30 acres of shovel ready land near the airport, which the county would use to lure relocating employers seeking cheap industrial space.

Southwest Land Developers would also send the county $250.000 in impact fee credits for each of the first two buildings constructed in the airport park. The company has even agreed to sell out $4 million to build infrastructure and a 25-acre storm water retention pond at Murdock Village to reduce the cost and permitting time posed to other developers. Charlotte has paid $118 million in expenses to date to acquire the 870-acre Murdock Village property. The county still owes $60 million on the site, which has been sitting vacant since 2003.
“ Right now, Murdock Village has little value, but once something is something is down there, it will go up very quickly,” Commissioner Tricia Duffy said. “ ( The land swap) is the start of making it an economic center rather than a drain. Government shouldn’t be in the land holding business, but unfortunately we are. I have always said the private sector can make much smarter business decisions.
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