By GARRY OVERBEY
PORT CHARLOTTE — Goodbye Murdock Village, hello West Port.
Kolter Land Partners, a land acquisition and development firm based in Palm Beach County, announced Monday the purchase of Private Equity Group’s interest in Murdock Fund LLC for an undisclosed sum.
Another batch of homes planned in Murdock
Along with a new developer, the area known as Murdock Village will get a new name.
“Murdock Village was a little too broad,” Jim Harvey, president of Kolter Land Partners, told the Sun Monday. “We liked West Port Charlotte, but that was too long. We thought West Port was a good way to establish the area.”
Harvey said Kolter will stick with PEG’s blueprint for 2,400 single- and multifamily homes, and 300,000 square feet of commercial and retail space on the approximately 450-acre site. The company has already begun work on the infrastructure improvements set forth in PEG’s agreement with the county.
“We’ve got bulldozers on the ground today,” he said.
A quick history of Murdock Village
In 2004, Charlotte County officials had a vision: buy up about 879 acres of blighted land along the State Road 776 corridor with the hopes of turning what came to be called “Murdock Village” into a thriving downtown area. Then the recession hit. Meanwhile, the county racked up $128 million in debt on the land. One suitor after another came and went, until Private Equity Group came along with the proverbial glass slipper, handing over a check last month for $11.6 million to develop roughly half the area.
PEG President Don Schrotenboer promised a name change was forthcoming, as Murdock Village was tough to market.
Charlotte County spokesperson Brian Gleason said the county’s agreement with PEG included a stipulation that the developer’s interest could be reassigned to another company.
“They’re a developer of multi-use projects like this,” Gleason said of Kolter, “so this is right in their wheelhouse.”
Where is it?
West Port will be located between U.S. 41 and State Road 776 across from Charlotte Sports Park. Those two roads will serve as the main entrances to the development, once O’Donnell Boulevard has been realigned and extended so it connects to 776.
The master plan includes single-family homes and multifamily apartments surrounding North Charlotte Regional Park and a new recreation center slated to open this fall. An aquatics facility with an Olympic-sized pool is being built next to the center.
“We’re thrilled with the new aquatic center and regional park,” Harvey said. “It’s really going to make for a great area and strong residential growth in Charlotte County.”
Two parcels flanking the S.R. 776 entrance are targeted for commercial development.
Homes and jobs
Kolter’s announcement was met with excitement by county officials.
“It’s going to transform what we have out there,” said Dave Gammon, director of economic development. “This is the vision in the commissioners’ minds when this started 15 years ago.”
With huge residential development planned for the area, Gammon said, there’s one thing to keep in mind: “Those people are going to need jobs.”
After years of stagnant development, seeing trees finally being knocked down “generates a lot of excitement.” That’s when people, and companies, know things are really moving.
Gammon said fresh development will allow the county to ramp up marketing the middle portion of Murdock Village — about 100 acres of a 165-acre parcel between Toledo Blade and Flamingo boulevards, in the middle of West Port and the proposed Lost Lagoon development — for commercial interests. Gammon said attracting “business/corporate” uses are at the top of the county’s wish list — perhaps a call center or a medical company.
What about PEG?
While Kolter is taking over as master developer of the project, PEG will retain about 42 acres for commercial and multi-family residential development.
“Private Equity Group’s future success is tied to the success of Kolter Group, thus creating a formidable partnership in making sure Murdock Village succeeds beyond expectations for Charlotte County, its residents and future residents,” Schrotenboer said in a statement. “Our two companies are looking forward to a successful relationship together at West Port.”
Harvey said a confidentiality agreement prevents him from disclosing how much Kolter paid PEG for the property.
Nine neighborhoods are planned for West Port with prices ranging from the low $200s to $400s. In a statement, Harvey said the company “look(s) forward to starting our first neighborhoods upon final engineering approvals from the county.”
Harvey said more information about the builder team and product offerings will be announced in the fall.
Kolter has developed communities with more than 2,000 homes in Southwest Florida, with projects in Manatee, Sarasota and Lee counties.