By BOB FLISS CHARLOTTE BUSINESS EDITOR, Charlotte Sun-Herald Newspaper. Reprinted with permission.
A Massachusetts shopping center developer has completed the purchase of about 200 acres on Jones Loop Road south of Punta Gorda.
This tract is the projected site of The Loop, which promises to be the biggest retail center in Charlotte County’s history. Along with about 1.2 million square feet of store space, The Loop is supposed to have a hotel, several office buildings, and up to 500 residential units.
The Wilder Companies, of Boston, announced Monday that it closed the sale last week. Exact terms were not immediately disclosed and the transaction has yet to be recorded in Charlotte County land records.
The developer plans to begin meetings with Charlotte County planning officials within a few days, said Tom Wilder, one of the firm’s managing partners.
“From an economic development point of view, we view our project not as an island, but as a catalyst for continued growth,” Wilder said. He anticipates that The Loop will become part of “the central identity” of Punta Gorda.
Wilder also added that the magnitude of his company’s proposal should be taken as a vote of confidence in Punta Gorda’s economy. “We saw it as a community we should be in,” Wilder said.
The county’s often-complicated development review process will likely take about a year, Wilder said. In the interim, the firm’s in-house design staff has essentially finished The Loop’s master plan and will soon be working on concepts for individual buildings.
The fact that The Loop is planned for Jones Loop Road is pure coincidence. The Wilder Companies uses The Loop as a brand name for its top-tier shopping centers in Massachusetts and Florida.
For example, Wilder’s previous big Florida venture was The Loop on Osceola and John Young parkways outside Orlando, a few miles from Universal Studios and the Disney theme parks. The 440,000-square-foot center opened in 2005 and leased up so quickly that Wilder recently announced a Loop West, of about the same size.