VERO BEACH — Humiston Park, which three years ago was the subject of much debate as the city considered trading park land for parking spaces, was re-opened Saturday hailed by officials for the cooperation between Vero Beach and the developers to refurbish the once bleak southern end of Ocean Drive.
The battles between the developer, Flamevine Partners, and groups against the project to rebuild an acre of dilapidated beachfront property with condominiums, retail space and a restaurant, along with $1 million on improvements to the park, were a distant memory on Saturday.
“I think this is a shining example of what public and private partners can do,” said Mayor Kevin Sawnick.
However, the development issue was one of the most contentious in front of the City Council in 2007 and early 2008, pitting the developer and those in favor of rebuilding the old site where Crusty’s restaurant once stood and those who were against the expected traffic congestion, some loss of access to the beach, and the loss of 10 percent of the green space at Humiston Park.
As part of the deal the developers needed the city to abandon the north half of Flamevine Lane, but they committed the $1 million to improve Humiston as part of the deal.
Despite the loss of some greenspace most in attendance Saturday were pleased with the way the public part of the project turned out.
The changes included widening the sidewalks in front of the park, improving the lighting and the building of a two-foot retaining wall along Ocean Drive. In addition, 22 more parking spaces were added to area around Humiston Park.
For its part, the city did work on the drainage system to prevent stormwater near the park being discharged into the Atlantic Ocean.
Vero Beach Public Works Director Monte Falls said he has already seen the benefits from the changes to Humiston.
“Two years ago there was a four-foot wide sidewalk and the ground then sloped up to the park,” he said. “Now you have a pedestrian plaza, where people can gather for events like Art in the Park.”
Falls pointed out the sitting wall had been the object of concern by some who thought it would cut off people from the park. Instead, he noted he sees people using it all the time from a place to have their morning coffee to events such as the Oceanside Business Association concert which followed the opening ceremonies.
“I have seen people in walkers to people with strollers using the pedestrian plaza, people from all walks of life are enjoying it,” he said.