32963 Homepage

Want to purchase reprints of your favorite 32963 or photos?

Copies of Vero Beach 32963 can be obtained at the following locations:


Our office HQ: (located at 4855 North A1A)
1. Corey's Pharmacy
2. 7-Eleven

(South A1A)
3. Major Real Estate Offices


1. Vero Beach Book

2. Classic Car Wash
3. Divine Animal
4. Sunshine Furniture

5. Many Medical

Financing is challenge for riverfront project

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of December 17, 2020)

Developers have told Vero Beach it might take three to five years for the retail and hospitality market to rebound enough to secure financing on a major hotel, dining, shopping and entertainment complex on the city’s power plant and sewer plant sites – unless the city holds the note on the project itself.

Residential multifamily developments are what the market wants now, they say. But that’s not the vision city leaders have for the prime riverfront property. Instead, they envision it as a hub of commercial and recreational activity, a gathering place for locals and visitors alike, and even a destination of historic significance that gives Vero Beach the thriving riverfront district it now lacks.

Marina projects are also doable right now, developers said. The city was planning to only provide day docks at the Big Blue site, however, in part because a $20 million marina revamp is already in process across the river at the Vero Beach Municipal Marina.

With that information on hand and an April deadline to finalize the riverfront master plan city residents will vote on next November, Vero’s Three Corners Steering Committee has set some concrete goals for its progress and is in search of developers who can bring money to the table and make the plan a reality sooner rather than latter.

The steering committee’s eight goals for a development with something to suit everyone’s tastes and interests start off with “Pursue the best and highest use of the public property that is financially sustainable for the City.”

Other goals include, “Create an unique destination that complements the City’s existing commercial centers with a sense of place with a diverse and complementary mix of park, cultural, commercial, and possibly residential land uses,” and to “Ensure public access to the waterfront that is inclusive to the entire Vero Beach community with dedicated public spaces, walkable pedestrian promenades, and connectivity to existing multi-modal transportation system.”

The fourth and fifth goals focus on the development being pedestrian oriented “with complementary retail and restaurants on the waterfront,” and to “Enhance the existing harbor and shoreline to accommodate a variety of leisure and recreation watercraft.”

The last three goals put a priority on “sustainable development” practices and environmentally friendly landscaping, respecting the community’s character, and educating visitors about the Indian River Lagoon and Vero’s history.

Former mayor Harry Howle, who serves on the steering committee, said the group needs to keep the goals handy and read them out loud at the beginning of each committee meeting to make sure they stay on task. “We only have one opportunity to do this right,” Howle said.

Planning and Development Director Jason Jeffries and City Manager Monte Falls met with a representative of Kessler Collection real estate group in September, Jeffries said.

Kessler developed the $375 million mixed-use project called The Plant Riverside in Savannah, Georgia, which turned an old power plant into a JW Marriott hotel that anchors a 675,000-square-foot entertainment district with shops, galleries, restaurants and clubs. “We also met with Kearney Group, Conkling & Lewis, Audubon Group, Duke Hospitality, and Frank Bodami,“ Jeffries said.

“I would characterize the meetings as informative. The developers gave us a development perspective on the feasibility of development at Three Corners. We discussed the master concept plans prepared by the City’s Consultant, DPZ CoDesign, and their thoughts on the feasibility of different aspects or concepts presented in the plans,” Jeffries said.

With the city looking at the possibility of a multiyear time lag before ground is broken on a hotel, shops or restaurants, Councilwoman Honey Minuse, Steering Committee Member Dr. Richard Baker and members of the public have urged the city council to open up the old power plant site to the public now so locals can enjoy the undeveloped riverfront greenspace while the planning process plugs along.

A drawback to this idea, from the viewpoint of those advocating robust commercial development at the site, is that – should it take the expected “three to five years” to successfully develop the property – the community might grow accustomed to using the open area as a “park” and want to keep it as park land.

City staff reported to the committee that Vero already has an abundance of park land, much more than the State of Florida’s minimum requirement, and that city taxpayers spend upwards of $2 million annually to maintain and staff recreation facilities.

Falls has strongly expressed his desire for whatever is built on the site to be “revenue neutral,” meaning that commercial lease payments or other income would, worst case, cover the city’s cost for maintenance of the surrounding green space. Dedicating the site to a park would be a recurring cost to Vero taxpayers with little to no associated income.

The fate of Vero’s defunct Big Blue power plant is still the biggest question mark – will the building be saved and transformed into an iconic hotel? Or will it be dismantled and salvaged for scrap metal? That largely depends upon whether a willing and able developer emerges very soon.

Nearly all the switching equipment has been removed from the plant, and Florida Power & Light is finishing the decommissioning of the adjacent substation, which FPL replaced with a modern, storm-hardened substation on the west side of Indian River Boulevard.

If the steering committee can recommend a master plan to the Vero Beach City Council by April, the city could formalize a referendum to send to Supervisor of Elections Leslie Swan by the August deadline to appear on the November municipal election ballot.