Fort Pierce development will wait for public discussion on downtown power-plant site

By Keona Gardener, News Source @TCOPalm

FORT PIERCE — City officials want to hear from the public before choosing a developer to transform the site of the former H.D. King power plant into a mixed-use commercial/residential project.

The Community Redevelopment Advisory Committee took no action Wednesday on the proposals to redevelop the 7.1-acre site in the heart of downtown into a destination spot.

Instead, the committee delayed a vote until after an April 11 public workshop, when three developers would be available to answer questions about their projects. A time and location for the workshop will be announced later.

Last month, the city received proposals from the Framework Group, of Tampa; Redevelopment Management Associates, of Pompano Beach; and Keith Kite, of Vero Beach, to build a development with a hotel, restauran and, shops to generate foot traffic and a parking garage which also would serve other businesses and handle tourism.

The Framework Group and RMA include apartments and townhomes in their proposals.

The developers now have until March 21 to submit more-detailed plans of their proposed developments, said Shyanne Helms, city spokeswoman.

A five-member city evaluation team will rank the proposals and send that information, along with the CRA recommendation, to the Fort Pierce Redevelopment Agency, which comprises the City Commission, to pick which developer would build the project.

Real Estate Agent Mark Tierney, who attended Wednesday’s meeting, said he would like to see the project include a high-end hotel, such as Marriott, possibly with a rooftop bar similar to Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale.

“It would help make the hotel more of a destination, and we could attract people from all over,” Tierney said.

Making downtown a destination spot is good, but it won’t work without having residential development, said CRA member Allan Reed.

“I lived in downtown for many years and there are all these wonderful, beautiful businesses. But guess what happens at 5 p.m.? It is quiet, a ghost town,” Reed said. “All of those businesses have closed and it is dead. I don’t want to see that happen to Fort Pierce.”

Committee member Hoyt C. Murphy Jr. said a hotel and residential component are needed to create a thriving downtown.

“If we had 10 more Renaissance (a high-rise condo building in downtown), the area would be so much better because you have created foot traffic for local businesses,” said Murphy, who has more than 30 years real estate experience in Fort Pierce. “A hotel would bring in tourism and the conferences.”

The power plant was razed in 2008, but the soil contained toxic chemicals such as arsenic, lead and petroleum, as well as polychlorinated biphenyl, once used in electrical transformers but now known as a carcinogen.

Fort Pierce Utilities Authority and the city have spent more than $4.2 million removing more than 34,000 tons of contaminated soil. Environmental cleanup has been completed, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The proposals

The Framework Group: a three-story, 200-unit apartment complex; six-story, 120-room hotel; 34,000-square-foot conference center; 1,500-square-foot-coffee shop; a 6,500-square-foot restaurant with outside dining; and a four-level parking garage.