Charlotte County experienced massive platting of property beginning in the 1920s which continued through the 1960s. Individual lots were sold to individual owners scattered around the world. As of 1983, Charlotte County had over 260,000 platted lots on 75,642 acres (the second largest number in the State of Florida). The scattered ownership of the land and the lack of a master developer to complete the promised infrastructure resulted in little or no development in the area for decades and deterioration of the limited infrastructure provided. Urban services such as water, sewer, and proper drainage were too expensive and impractical to complete. Criminal activity and unsafe conditions developed along with code violations from illegal trash disposal and dumping to overgrown vegetation. Without the benefit of a developer partner to participate in developing the needed infrastructure, the costs would be borne by the county or the individual homeowner through impact fees or special assessments resulting in higher building costs without additional amenities. The high cost of developing on the existing platted lot network would be competing with more efficient development of new subdivisions, leaving the platted land area stagnant and deteriorating.
The county asked for advice from the Urban Land Institute (ULI), a research and educational organization that assists communities with preliminary advice on difficult land issues. The area selected for the study was centrally located with excellent access to I-75 and U.S. 41. In addition, approximately 97 percent of the land in the proposed boundary was undeveloped. In May 2002, ULI conducted a study of the area and recommended the county undertake a land assembly program to facilitate the expected growth pressures by encouraging and guiding sustainable development to occur that met the development standards of the 21st century.
The Board of County Commissioners adopted findings of necessity required by the Community Redevelopment Act, determining that the Community Redevelopment Area was a blighted area as defined by Florida Statute, created the Murdock Village Community Redevelopment Agency, and authorized the land acquisition within the Community Redevelopment Area. The county proceeded with a Request for Qualifications to select a master developer as a partner during the land assembly and planning process. Several developers submitted qualifications and conceptual plans including Bonita Bay and Lennar. Bonita Bay withdrew their proposal in March 2004 before the selection process was completed.
The county selected Lennar as the master developer and proceeded to negotiate with the company. During this time, the county was still in the process of acquiring the land.
Lennar withdrew from the negotiations in 2005. The Board continued with the land acquisition program and concentrated its efforts on planning issues to create a Murdock Village mixed-use land use designation and adopted the Community Redevelopment Plan which articulates the vision of Murdock Village as a mixed-use village including residential, commercial, civic, recreational and institutional uses that are interconnected.
After the county completed the land acquisition and a Request for Proposals was issued to secure a Master Developer, several developers submitted proposals including Stock Development, Forest City, and Kitson & Partners. Stock Development was selected based on their proposal of a town center with access from S.R. 776 and additional commercial centers with a variety of residential development. They withdrew from the negotiations in October 2006 as the real estate market began to fall.
The county contacted the other interested developers that had participated in the RFP process. Kitson & Partners was selected by the county and negotiations began. A disposition agreement was approved in October 2007. During negotiations, Kitson & Partners submitted a concept plan that included approximately 4,000 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of commercial including a 985,000 square foot town center, and a 50 acre university site.
Kitson & Partners withdrew from the negotiations.
2009 – 2010
The county actively marketed the property to the open real estate market with the option to sell smaller parcels within the redevelopment area. In 2010, interest from the private sector was evolving the vision of Murdock Village, moving it from primarily residential to creating an economic center and developing a destination for Charlotte County. In March 2010, the county approved a contract with Southwest Land Developers (SLD) for the rights to 137 acres within the Murdock Village Community Redevelopment Area and an additional 100 acres to develop an entertainment district, in exchange for 34 acres of “shovel ready” property within the Enterprise Charlotte Airport Park. The proposal from SLD was accepted, including the entertainment district. A business technology park was also envisioned for the area east of Toledo Blade Boulevard to create an opportunity for business recruitment in the northern section of the county.
Main Stage Development LLC negotiated with the county to acquire 100 Acres to create a Music Entertainment District. The proposal included an 18-month option contract which required Main Stage to raise $200 million in equity financing. Due to the economic conditions, Main Stage withdrew their proposal in September.
The Board of County Commissioners is currently reviewing Murdock Village to determine the best approach to market the property and to decide if the vision of Murdock Village should be revised. The county continues to discuss this opportunity with interested parties and is open to discuss options with developers who have the financial capacity to implement a redevelopment plan in the area.