Port Charlotte getting a ‘downtown’

June 15th, 2023

By NANCY J. SEMON, STAFF WRITER - Daily Sun - Port Charlotte

Parkside Village to contain hotel, apartments, shops, offices

PORT CHARLOTTE — Charlotte County commissioners approved a zoning change which paves the way for Parkside Village — Port Charlotte’s new “downtown.”

Development firm JLJI PC, LLC can now proceed with plans to transform the Promenades Mall site at 3280 Tamiami Trail, into a small city containing 791 apartments, 600 hotel rooms and 500,000 square feet of commercial uses.

“Promenades Mall back in the 1970s was the center of town,” said Robert Berntsson, an attorney with the Big W Law Firm, who represents the developers.

“Sears was there for those of you who remember, a movie theater, a couple of local bars,” he told Charlotte County Commissioners on Tuesday. “That’s where you were seen in Port Charlotte in the late 70s in evenings and on weekends.”

Elizabeth Nocheck, senior planner for the county, recounted the history of the project.

It began in 2011 when the county approved the Parkside Citizens Master Plan, which conceptualized a neighborhood that would be “safe and attractive, urban in character, known for great public spaces, fostering community, livable and walkable, supporting and sustaining economic growth, and having an identifiable destination,” she said.

On Tuesday, the commission considered the developers’ request to rezone the property from commercial to compact growth mixed use.

Commissioner Chris Constance, despite being behind the project, still had reservations and questions.

“I would like it to come back to us so we can do a site plan review,” he said.

Planning and zoning official Shaun Cullinan said Parkside Village, which has by right approval to develop the project without coming back to the board, is “similar in vein to Riverwalk” and that it would require no public hearing, which is “the intention of mixed use.”

Looking around the near-empty room, Constance was surprised more people weren’t there, noting social media has gone “wild” with both positive and negative comments about the project.

One of the comments, he said, was concerns about height. The developers will be able to build up to 150 feet.

Cullinan reiterated that the project has a “by right use.”

Berntsson recalled that the board decided to approve the zoning change without having the developer come back with the design plan once it was completed.

He said he was surprised that they didn’t require this.

“My clients were at every single roundtable meeting,” he said.

Those roundtables were designed to involve the community and get input and feedback.

Tiseo looked at the 1,000-foot buffer area and said he had to recuse himself from voting because he owns property “directly in front of their (Promenades) property.”

Constance said his vote could have “unintended consequences” since the buffer cuts through the building where he has his office, but that his office is slightly beyond the 1,000 feet.

He, too, recused himself from voting, and the other three commissioners voted in favor of it.

Although the design has not yet been finalized, conceptual rendering submitted by the development firm show a 26-acre town square of sorts, with restaurants, tall buildings, shops, offices, and recreation.

“This is what we’ve been waiting for,” Commissioner Stephen R. Deutsch said after the vote.