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Luxury seaside condos set for Florida Tech site


Vero Beach real estate developer Coastmark Companies plans to build luxury seaside condominiums on the abandoned Florida Institute of Technology lab site adjacent to the county’s Tracking Station Park.

Coastmark has the prime 4-acre, oceanfront parcel under contract and is “currently conducting due diligence on the land,” according to company vice president Yane Zana.

The news comes a week after the Vero Beach City Council approved a request by FIT to have the property – a small swatch of unincorporated Indian River County sandwiched between the town of Indian River Shores to the north and the city of Vero Beach to the south – annexed into the city.

Under the county codes that prevailed before annexation, development was limited to three units per acre.  But the Vero council approved land-use and zoning changes that will permit both multifamily residential and commercial development, and allow up to 15 residential units per acre.

Coastmark, which has a stellar track record of developing single-family and multifamily luxury waterfront properties, is in no rush to develop the parcel, according to Zana.

The company just completed one luxury condominium project a little over a mile to the south on Conn Beach, and is building three oceanfront estate homes further north on the island.  It also has work underway on Blue at 8050, an ultra-luxury condo development on a 4.7-acre oceanfront tract in Indian River Shores.

Zana estimates permitting for the Florida Tech property will take at least six months and said it is too early in the process to provide pricing, specific plans or a construction timeframe for the project. He said the development could include a commercial component.

“It is not something that is going to be breaking ground for a while,” Zana said of the project. “I do expect it to be primarily multifamily and it will be similar to what I’ve offered – luxury oceanfront living. I’m very excited about the property.”

If all goes as planned, Florida Tech plans to finalize the sale to Coastmark in mid-January, said Patrick Healy, general counsel for the university.

Healy declined to reveal the sale price. The property is assessed at just under $2.6 million, according to government records.

Florida Tech purchased the property in 1980 to develop a marine research laboratory. For the next 37 years, the multi-building site was used for research on seahorse life cycles and improved aquaculture techniques. Private aquaculture companies also operated on the site, working in collaboration with university researchers.

As recently as 2013, FIT planned a major expansion at the small campus located behind the 7-Eleven, announcing that it would hire additional faculty and build a new 20,000-square-foot, $10 million lab building that would include an area where the public could observe marine creatures and research projects.

However, the failure of a fundraising campaign undertaken in Vero Beach to support the project and the death of longtime lab supervisor Professor Junda Lin caused those plans to falter and the lab closed in 2016.

In 2017, the county tried to buy the land for $1.5 million to expand parking at the neighboring Tracking Station Park but the deal did not fly and the dilapidated facility has been empty for several years.

“We don’t have the research grants to make productive use of the property as a marine research facility,” Healy said.

“We have marine resources capabilities in Melbourne, so we want to sell the property as one of our assets and put the proceeds to good use in Melbourne.”

The university plans to use the sale proceeds to help pay for an $18 million marine biomedical studies facility at its main campus, with construction slated to start early next year.