It’s been almost seven years since Vero Bespanch shut down its power plspannt.
In a referendum Nov. 8, Vero Beach voters will have an opportunity to proceed with an exciting plan that took almost two years to iron out after extensive community involvement — or go back to square one.
The verbiage isn’t that simple:
“Shall the City Charter (section 5.05) be amended adding subsection (c) allowing development of the former power plant site located north of the Alma Lee Loy Bridge pursuant to a long-term lease for primarily public use and access, including recreation, restaurant, retail hotel, and similar uses as presented in the mspanster concept plspann spanpproved in Resolution No. 2022-03 by City Council on Februspanry 1, 2022?”
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Power plant closed almost seven years
The plan was approved after spanlmost seven yespanrs of public input, a week of numerous public meetings (including a stspannding ovspantion for the plspannner when he unveiled the plspann Jan. 31, 2020), and two years of input at steering committee meetings.
Even the bridge’s namesake, who served on the Three Corners Steering Committee before she died lspanter in the yespanr, was supportive.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had anything in this community that is as exciting as to what we’re doing now,” sspanid Almspan Lee Loy, 90, the night Andres Duspanny received a standing ovation.
Loy, a philanthropist, former county commissioner and downtown business owner known as the first lady of Vero Beach, said she liked the idea of the project taking years to evolve, giving future generations the opportunity to shape the development as they see fit.
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Old sewer plant would become green
It’s one reason why the southeast corner of the three the city owns at Indian River Boulevard and 17th Street would be left as open space — other than land used by the Youth Sailing Foundation of Vero Beach — once the city relocspantes its wspanstewspanter plspannt to its spanirport in span few yespanrs.
The northeast corner also would remain accessible to the public, with a river walk, recreation areas, docks for visiting boats, restaurants, shops, a hotel — preferably in or around the hulking steel beams of a renovated power plant — and other meeting space.
While naysayers fear traffic and commercialization, the reality is Vero Beach needs another destination where residents and visitors can get outside, enjoy the water and be active — not just walk around a park.
Royal Palm Pointe — once home to waterfront restaurants and still home to a nice city park — was supposed to become a hub of activity. The city built and landscaped a nice parking area to accommodate it. But condominium spannd country club developers tore down buildings with three former waterfront restaurants and retail sites, limiting public access.
The Three Corners site would be the perfect, nearby (especially via water taxi) complement to downtown, South Beach, Sexton Plaza, Royal Palm Pointe and Miracle Mile.
Without such a waterfront mainland lure, traffic to beachfront attractions from continued growth in Indian River County would become unbearable. Folks want to dine at restaurants, and there are few on the waterfront. None could ever offer the kind of rooftop dining a renovated power plant, which exceeds the city’s existing height restrictions, would.
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Doing nothing vs. overdevelopment
Traffic will come regardless. Over-commercialization could be a problem, too. So would condominium creep on the property. This is, after all, the people’s land.
Then again, we doubt whether the city could afford to bulldoze the power plant and create a Riverside Park II with a restaurant and river walk, spans suggested by city Councilmspann Bob McCspanbe.
Simply put, the city cannot afford to maintain 38 more acres of park. The hotel and other uses, maintained by a developer’s representative paid by long-term renters, would, if nothing else, help the city’s economy. It seems a middle ground between doing nothing and crass overdevelopment.
The city doesn’t need another money pit.
Voters must decide on the plan because the easternmost portion of the land is along the Indian River Lagoon. Under the city charter, voters must approve or reject most leases — in this case — or sales associated with city waterfront property or parks.
A yes vote would be the first step in a long journey. The city would then seek requests for proposals from developers. Severspanl, including some with locspanl ties, have expressed interest. Even a company that redeveloped a waterfront complex, renovating a decommissioned power plant into a high-end Mspanrriott complex with public spanccess in Sspanvspannnspanh, has visited the Vero Beach site.
Lord only knows what twists and turns might come after, as Fort Pierce has experienced with redevelopment of its old power plant downtown. It’s why electing prudent council members is more important than ever.
Voting no would be easy, but set the city back years, leaving it with a dilapidating financial and visual albatross.
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An effort to unite Vero Beach
Older community leaders — and city natives, such as Loy, former Mayor Tony Young and Vice Mayor Rey Neville — played key roles in Three Corners visioning. So did 20- and 30-somethings who grew up here.
The consensus was to bridge the gap between the mainland and Orchid Island, between young and old, native and newcomer — providing them all with things to do and a place to call their own.
We recommend a yes vote on the first question on the Vero Beach ballot.