Centennial Boulevard opens, connecting US 41 to SR 776

March 29, 2021

By BETSY CALVERT                                                     STAFF WRITER Port Charlotte Sun

Centennial Boulevard opens, connecting US 41 to SR 776 image

Centennial Boulevard opens, connecting US 41 to SR 776

West Port model homes to open in April

There’s a new connector road in town and it passes through a zone that is part lunar landscape, part meticulous landscaping.  Charlotte County officials celebrated Thursday with multiple developers and contractors for the opening of Centennial Boulevard where it now connects U.S. 41 with State Road 776 for the first time. The tree-lined boulevard is the center spine of a new master- planned development called West Port.

Until recently, the road was called O’Donnell Boulevard, for reasons perhaps only the original 1960s General Development Corporation knows. The region was called Murdock Village, dating back to the 1920s.  “It’s been a long time folks,” said Commissioner Bill Truex.  Truex briefly summarized the history of the region starting with John Milton Murdock who built a small community around the rail line, that is now gone. Murdock dredged some of the canals and General Development did the rest.  General Development also plotted thousands of quarter-acre lots with roads in Murdock Village and not much else in the 1960s. Only a few homes were ever built, and the county commissioners decided about 20 years ago to buy up all the land, or take it by eminent domain, for $128 million.  It’s time to pay back the taxpayers, Truex said.

To pay off that debt, Jim Harvey, president of the main developer Kolter Land Partners, told the small audience gathered that his company estimates the developed land value will be about half-billion dollars.  The area is entitled to about 2,000 homes, with some to be luxury apartments, some to be town homes, and the rest in the $200,000s to $400,000s, according to the signs.

The first home sales will likely be in July, said Harvey. Model homes will be open to view in April.  The site is about 450 acres. The quarter-acre lots were obliterated to make way for about $18 million so far in infrastructure including roads, water and sewer lines. Ultimately, Kolter will spend about $60 million on infrastructure, he said, with most of the water and sewer lines installed over the next four years. Houses will take longer to fill in.  Kolter is partnering not only with the county but with several large home-building companies to build out different villages with names like The Hammocks and The Isles. Home-building companies are Lennar, D.R. Horton, Forestar and M/I Homes, Maronda Homes and Ryan Homes.

Harvey said the community will include retirees and young families. “We’ve got a lot of young families looking for their first home, putting roots down for their children and their children’s children,” Harvey said.  Harvey praised the county for its partnership.  “I’ve got to give Charlotte County a real thumbs up for getting things done, and doing what you say you’re going to do,” he said to the county staff gathered. “This project is a perfect example of a public-private partnership.”

The partnership began when the county sold the land to Kolter for $11.2 million which Kolter gets back when it completes infrastructure improvements that the county needed. Kolter also signed a detailed developer’s agreement. Not everyone was happy with the deal, with some saying the county gave away too much. Commissioner Chris Constance has emphasized that he did not approve of the deal, and he did not attend the ribbon cutting. And the state no longer allows municipal governments to take land by eminent domain for private development. But Thursday was for celebrating.

Kolter Vice President Paul Martin praised numerous contractors in all fields, many of whom were still out moving earth, planting grass and building homes.  “We just think this place is going to blow up and be successful,” Martin said. “There’s no stopping us now.”  Email: betsy.calvert@yoursun.com