Developers sometimes fear community and government feedback. One executive, behind a large project in an underdeveloped site, embraces it.
Several structures have been demolished on the 25-acre site of the forthcoming Sunseeker Resort in Port Charlotte — a project with the potential to reshape a large swath of Charlotte County.
In addition to the outside work, some efforts are being undertaken behind the scenes to get the project ready for what could be a developer's toughest obstacle: community support.
The razing took place over the last few months in preparation for construction to begin on the project being developed by Allegiant, a company best known for its low-cost airfare. Charlotte County’s Punta Gorda Aiport is an Allegiant flight destination, and the resort aims to strengthen the company’s ties to the region.
When finished, the resort is expected to include a hotel, up to nine condominium towers and several restaurants.
Sunseeker recently received approvals from the Charlotte County Commission to move forward with the redevelopment of the property, and the project targets a June groundbreaking. After the groundbreaking, belowground site work will start, including work on utilities and storm water collection. In August or September, Allegiant President John Redmond says, people will start to see vertical work done at the site.
Also in the works now is financing for the project. Redmond says Sunseeker is in the midst of conversations with several parties interested in helping finance the resort. The company paid about $35 million for the land. “We’re hoping to have a financing package announced at the end of the month or in May,” he says.
To get to this point, Allegiant President John Redmond says two things helped — communication and collaboration.
“I’ve spoken myself personally to a lot of groups,” says Redmond, whose corporate office is in Las Vegas. That includes a group of residents from the condominium across the street from the Sunseeker project; members of a nearby church; groups of real estate professionals; and people connected with economic development efforts. It’s important to communicate with and educate everyone connected to a project on the facts of the development, Redmond says.
Another way to communicate a sense of trust with the public is by inviting them to experience Sunseeker after it’s finished. The public will be able to patronize the several original restaurant concepts within the resort’s bounds. They’ll also be able to access the mile-long waterfront boardwalk to be built on the property.
That public access was important, Redmond says, because it displays a spirit of cooperation. It’s also important to the resort’s success and increasing the customer base for the restaurants. “We never wanted this to be an isolated-type project,” he says.
“I think the thing that’s incredibly important in my experience is to be fortunate to develop in areas where local government views it as a partnership and not some sort of adversarial relationship.” — John Redmond, President, Allegiant
The project has also been successful in moving forward, Redmond says, because of the local government. “I think the thing that’s incredibly important in my experience is to be fortunate to develop in areas where local government views it as a partnership and not some sort of adversarial relationship,” he says. “It’s been a collaborative effort between Sunseeker and the county to try to figure out a project that’s best for all.”
Without the cooperation of the county, Redmond says, he wouldn’t have wanted to proceed with the project because that kind of opposition becomes insurmountable. “Did we get everything we wanted? No. Did they get everything they wanted? No. That’s the spirit of cooperation.”
There have been additional aspects of the project that required cooperation, too. Sunseeker’s development involves working with Florida Power & Light Co. to move power lines and with the Florida Department of Transportation to landscape medians. “That has to be something we’re willing to pay for,” Redmond says of the landscaping. “We’re not unrealistic about it.”
One of the main differences between Sunseeker and other development projects, he says, is a sense of longevity. That translates into actions like a willingness to invest in landscaping and moving power lines. Sunseeker isn’t going to build condos, sell them off and leave. "We’re building and staying put for the long haul," Redmond says. "We want to see this area developed properly and become a centerpiece of a major beautification effort.”