By STEVE REILLY STAFF WRITER, Charlotte Sun-Herald Newspaper. Reprinted with permission.
The national Where To Retire magazine views Punta Gorda as somewhere retirees should put down their roots.
In the June issue of Where To Retire, Fort Myers-based writer Karen Feldman describes the city as “a small town tucked unobtrusively between Sarasota and Fort Myers.” Feldman also says Punta Gorda has a scarce resource: “miles of waterfront property and affordable real estate.”
According to a publication press release, the Texas-based magazine was launched in 1992 as a publication identifying the ideal retirement regions, towns and masterplanned communities. It now has a national circulation of 220,000 and publishes six times a year.
The magazine views its audience as the more than 700,000 new, baby-boomer retirees and soon-to-be-retired readers who are ready to seek out other communities where they can pursue their interests and who are “generally healthier, better educated and more affluent than retirees who stay put.”
“Each issue, we feature a place in Florida as one of our five or six profiles of towns across the country,” wrote editor Mary Lu Abbott in an e-mail to the Sun. “We profiled Punta Gorda a number of years ago and we’ve had it on our list for an update, a new look, for awhile. Then Hurricane Charley hit, so we waited.”
A year ago, Abbott visited the Punta Gorda area and was impressed with the recovery effort and the “new energy” she saw in the city. That led her magazine to profile the city.
“We feel that Punta Gorda has a nice mix of amenities for retirees and an added benefit of affordability on the coast,” Abbott wrote. “Also, it’s a size town that many retirees like — not too large a city. It has a new life about it that we think makes it appealing.”
Feldman, a Fort Myers freelance writer who also edits Florida Gulf Coast University’s Pinnacle magazine, has lived in the area for more than 20 years. Writing about Punta Gorda was no stretch for her.
“I know Punta Gorda and love it,” Feldman said.
Rather than merely depending upon the broad brush of regional statistics, Feldman’s article allows the voices of retired residents — now living in Punta Gorda Isles, Pirate Harbor and Shell Creek area — to speak to what they like most about living in the Punta Gorda area. The historic downtown and its restaurants, Visual Arts Center, boating and fishing in Charlotte Harbor are among the featured attractions of the area.
Pirate Harbor residents Erik Hoffer and his wife, Diane, are among those featured in the article, telling what enjoy in their community.
“We think it’s a good idea to share feelings with people,” Hoffer said. He also wanted to show what the area is like to his friends still in New York and others who misconceive Florida as “trailer parks and old people sitting around.”
Feldman notes how the city survived the ravages of Hurricane Charley in 2004, quoting Charlotte County Emergency Management Director Wayne Sallade as saying, “urban renewal by disaster.” The planned mixed-use development at the Sunloft Center in downtown, Jones Loop and Babcock Ranch exemplify in the article other signs of economic vitality on the horizon.
Where To Retire kudos for Punta Gorda are appreciated locally.
Ron Thomas, executive director for Enterprise Punta Gorda, a nonprofit organization created to help promote the city and attract new businesses, liked the article. Thomas said, “It really talked about the value of the community from the perspective that people can be enriched moving down here. I found it really compelling.”
Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce President John Wright said any article that brings attention to Punta Gorda in a positive light is a benefit to the community at large. With new retirees, Wright said, will come new jobs.
And Mayor Larry Friedman found the article as a continuation of how Money magazine and other publications viewed Punta Gorda as among the best small towns. In the wake of Hurricane Charley, Friedman said the article offers encouragement and shows the recovery is past, and the city has re-emerged stronger and a more vital community.