January 08, 2019

The rock or the jelly doughnut? Journey to the Future presenters talk change, growth in Charlotte County

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

Charlotte Sun Published: 8-Jan 2019

The rock or the jelly doughnut. Which would you prefer to eat?

That was the question posed by Victor Dover of Dover Kohl & Partners at the “Journey to the Future: Let’s learn together” conference. The informational event, held at the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center on Monday, featured multiple presenters, along with keynote speaker John Redmond, Allegiant Air president, and a panel of community representatives moderated by Fox 4’s Lee Pitts. Around 700 people attended.

“‘Before and after thinking’ requires comparing what exists now to what could be there instead with change,” said Dover, showing a PowerPoint presentation contrasting a dilapidated area with a revitalized one. “Before and after thinking is always like that – what would you prefer to eat, the rock or the jelly doughnut?”

Dover Kohl was hired by the city as a consulting firm to create the Citywide Master Plan to help guide development in the area. Once completed, the Citywide Master Plan will serve as a comprehensive vision for the future of Punta Gorda.

“Think of the city like it’s this great collective work of art that’s never finished,” said Dover, “That’s what we’ve inherited. It’s this unbelievable process that results from hundreds of years of city building in which people come along and add another brick on top of the bricks that others have installed before.”

Change in the city has been an issue because many residents felt they didn’t have a voice when it came to the changes being proposed. In creating the Citywide Master Plan, Dover Kohl will hold a series of charettes or focus groups to obtain the community’s input on their wants and needs on how the city should move forward with future developments.

Monday’s conference was a kick-off to that charette process, serving as an educational opportunity for the community.

“I think it was good for all of our residents to come in and really just raise the bar on civic education so that we have a very productive and inclusive charette process,” said Council member Jaha Cummings. “The presenters’ experiences give us some perspective in terms of reflecting on (what’s going on around us) and maybe if they see things in places like (Babcock Ranch and Sunseeker), some of those things may be able to be benefit us.”

When Babcock Ranch was in its early stages of planning, Rick Serverance, Babcock Ranch CEO, said their board of directors insisted on getting the community input and so they also conducted a charette process.

“They were adamant about seeking (the community’s) input,” said Serverance in his presentation. “It’s not about a hierarchy of blue blazers and gray hair making decisions about a community that will far exceed their life cycle, but it’s about making sure everything is participatory and that if we are going to be successful, we are going to have to be multi-generational. If you don’t listen, it will not serve you well. You need to be thinking about not just about who is behind you, but where your children want to visit, where your grandchildren want to visit.”

There is no doubt among the community leaders that growth at Babcock Ranch and Allegiant Air’s Sunseeker Resort will have an impact on the city of Punta Gorda.

“I think there is going to be a tremendous impact from both of those facilities on Punta Gorda,” said Nancy Johnson, Team Punta Gorda president, “and the task for us is to think about how to manage that impact. What are the opportunities that are in our best interest here in Punta Gorda? We need to start thinking about that before they come, instead of waiting to see what happens to us.”

The impact of Allegiant Air can already be seen in Punta Gorda, according to Allegiant Air President John Redmond.

“The resort (along with the airline) really demonstrates how the company is doubling down in this area,” Redmond told the Sun. “That’s a significant investment to put in. It’s like your homegrown property to go to. It’s going to be a signature place for the area. The potential for us to do that is enhanced greatly when you create attractions here that we have invested interests to drive people into. So, that’s huge.”

The Citywide Master Plan charette series will be held March 11-15 at the First United Methodist Church at 507 W. Marion Ave., in Punta Gorda.

“We are heading in the right direction,” City Manager Howard Kunik told the Sun. “As long as we can keep this momentum going, the future is bright.”

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