PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - After nearly five years of planning and design, a botanical garden is showing signs of growth in Punta Gorda. People hope the Peace River Botanical and Sculpture Garden, located East of interstate 75, will be a showpiece for the city.
Residents living nearby say they're excited for the project but that was not always the case. The botanical gardens were originally met with some opposition from neighbors who where worried the attraction would disrupt their quiet community.
"We took those concerns back, worked with the engineers to modify the plan to address the neighbors concerns," said land use lawyer Geri Waksler with the McCrory Law Firm.
Thanks to some changes to the plans, Waksler says the 26-acre botanic garden is now good to grow.
"Originally the entrance was on Beechwood Drive, which is a small street through a residential community. We modified the entrance, now off Riverside Drive. It is much larger has much more capacity," she said.
This week, the Charlotte County Commission granted a request to vacate a portion of the North Cleveland subdivision, allowing the developer of the botanical gardens to move forward with the next stage of permits.
"When we originally got the special exception we got studies on the impact pubic parks have on neighboring properties and almost across the board it improves property values," Waksler said.
Construction is funded by the Tetrault Family Foundation and he cost of the project is expected to be about 30 million dollars.
"They work with artists across the nation and even the world to have their vision executed," she said.
Once completed, the gardens will include a botanical oasis, a boardwalk, viewing bridge, visitors center and sculpture garden.
"I think it could really be a crown jewel for the area," said neighbor Robert Dwyer.
Over 1,200 feet of shoreline will be accessible to the public.
The first phase of the project is scheduled to open in 2015.