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Grand opening of Three Corners may be five years off

STORY BY RAY MCNULTY (Week of January 5, 2023)

And the grand opening of the much-anticipated Three Corners dining, retail and recreational hub on the mainland’s waterfront will be …

Summer of ’28?

Wait, what?

It’s going to be more than five years before we see what a developer does with the Master Concept Plan that the Vero Beach City Council approved for those prized 33 acres on the banks of the Indian River Lagoon, at the west end of the 17th Street Bridge?


Well, no – not necessarily.

The wait could be even longer.

The summer of 2028 projection presented by City Manager Monte Falls at the City Council’s Dec. 16 special-call workshop meeting was optimistic, based on the assumption that there are none of the delays that often hamper such developments.

It also assumes none of the five city elections between now and then produces council majorities that aren’t as excited about developing the Three Corners parcels as those who’ve enthusiastically embraced the project since it was proposed.

“A lot can happen in five years,” Falls said last week, “and there’s a lot that has to be done.”

For example:

• Requests for proposals from potential developers must be issued. That is scheduled for late April, with a deadline for submissions in July.

• A selection committee, which likely will include city staff directors, will be appointed to review the developers’ proposals and present to the City Council a small number of finalists – a process expected to conclude by Oct. 1.

• The city would then spend the next six to nine months negotiating with the committee’s top choice. If a deal can’t be struck, the city would move on to the second choice, then third choice, and so on.

Even if the city can successfully negotiate a contract with the committee’s No. 1 pick, Falls said it was unlikely construction would begin before September 2024.

As Falls explained to council members, land-use designations on the lagoon-front properties – they’re currently occupied by the city’s defunct power plant and still-active wastewater-treatment facility – must be changed.

The parcels also must be rezoned.

Under Falls‘  timeline, the City Council would adopt those changes by February 2024. Then, the developer’s site plan could be submitted to the city’s Planning & Zoning Board for approval.

The city also must continue to move forward with its plan to replace its outdated wastewater-treatment plant on the lagoon with a new facility at Vero Beach Regional Airport – a transition that would clear the 16-acre parcel to the south of the bridge for development.

Falls said the city hopes to have the new facility in service by July 2027, with demolition of the existing plant scheduled for April 2028.

He said developers who’ve expressed interest in the Three Corners project have told him they would not proceed without the city’s commitment to move the wastewater plant off the lagoon.

For now, though, Falls said the most pressing need is for the city to hire a Three Corners project manager whose sole job is to oversee the operation from start to finish. He hopes to have someone on the payroll during the first quarter of 2023, preferably by Feb. 1.

“We can hire someone who works directly for us, or we could contract with a firm,” Falls said. “We haven’t made that decision yet. Whichever way we go, though, it’s going to be a full-time job, especially once the project gets going.

“The project manager will be our quarterback, working hand-in-hand with the city and the developer to make sure things get done,” he added. “It’s imperative that we get the right person.”

Falls said he already had met with local professionals to discuss the qualifications the project manager should possess.

The selection committee will judge the developers’  proposals using several criteria, including how closely their plan conforms to the Master Concept Plan, their timelines and how much they’re willing to pay to lease the property from the city, Falls said.

He said he expects developers will invest more than $100,000 in preparing their proposals, and the City Council must balance conformance to the master plan with maximizing revenues to the city.

“These proposals will be pretty comprehensive,” Falls said, “so it’s going to take a lot of time and effort for the committee to go through them and rank them.”

While some local residents might be surprised the Three Corners development won’t be completed until 2028, Falls said five years is not uncommon for a multifaceted project of this magnitude.

“It’s not like you can just start construction next month,” he said. “There’s a lot that needs to be done before we get to that stage. We’re not only developing the Three Corners. We’re also building a new wastewater-treatment plant and demolishing the old one.

“We’re going to have two of the biggest construction projects in the city’s history being undertaken at the same time.”