A master plan is advised for jobs corridor

Port St. Lucie should stop marketing city-owned land in Tradition Commerce Center until the City Council adopts a new master plan for the “jobs corridor,” a panel of planning experts recommended.

Attracting high-paying employers and enhancing the city’s quality of life should be the focus of the new master plan for the commerce park along Interstate 95, the Urban Land Institute panel said. A secondary goal should be paying down $121.5 million in principal remaining on loans used to finance road and utility construction in the commerce center, the panel said in a new report to the city.

Assessments totaling 75 cents per square foot in Tradition Commerce Center typically increase construction costs by about 38 percent, making the land less attractive to industry, the ULI report says.

The city can make the land more attractive to high-paying employers by negotiating assessment reductions of up to 40-50 percent, the report says.

Port St. Lucie faces $6 million per year in property taxes and assessments on 1,160 acres in the commerce center the city acquired on June 28 from Tradition Land Co., city records show.

The city’s share of the taxes and assessments declines as it sells land and those obligations are assumed by the new owners.

The city’s sale of a 9.75-acre site on the southwest corner of Discovery Way and Tom Mackie Boulevard for $849,680 to Oculus Surgical is set to close in June, city records show. The company plans to build a 50,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution facility.

The city is also negotiating to lease a 25-acre site in the commerce center to Somerset Career Academy Port St. Lucie for a vocational-technical school for students in grades 6-12.

Port St. Lucie paid ULI $135,000 to study the commerce center and formulate recommendations for a new master plan. A seven-member planning panel sent its report to the city last week.

“The goal should be jobs first – and a high quality of life – then mitigating the debt as a secondary goal,” the ULI report says. The report also divided the roughly 4-mile-long and half-mile wide commerce center property into several distinct districts.

Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital anchors the northern end of the commerce center and creates demand for medical buildings nearby, the ULI report says.

The remaining land around the hospital should be designated for medical and educational purposes, the report says.

Residences for students and medical workers should be developed on the land between the medical and education area and Discovery Way, the ULI report says.

Keiser University has already established a campus south of Discovery Way near I-95. Just south of the college, City Electric Supply is building a 400,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution center.

A main street business district with office space should be developed south of the new manufacturing and distribution facilities, the ULI report says.

It would feature a wide “Market Street” with bike lanes, on-street parking, trees and a variety of green spaces and outdoor seating areas.

A cultural arts and entertainment district should be developed in the heart of the commerce center, the ULI report recommends. It would include large open fields, sports fields, a dog park and a playground.

There will also be a “Market Square” for farmers markets, festivals, car shows and other community events, the report says.

A 75-acre lake would serve double-duty as a stormwater drainage and recreational facility, the ULI report says.

The lake will be deep enough for watercraft, water taxis and other water-based recreational activities, the report says. It could also have an alligator-protected beach area.

The south side of the entertainment district will be designated for shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, such as a movie theater, or comedy club, the ULI report says.

Residential areas for apartments, town houses and single-family houses are scattered throughout the commerce park under the ULI proposal.

The largest residential area would be located between the cultural arts and entertainment district and a large industrial district just north of Becker Road.

The industrial district should be designed to accommodate buildings ranging in size from 80,000-to-1 million square feet, the ULI report says. It should also have a recreation area for the workers.

The ULI conceptual plan shows a mix of uses along Becker Road on the southern end of the commerce center.

The City Council should appoint an oversight committee to manage the city-owned land in the commerce center, the ULI panel recommended.

The council should also hire an executive director to champion the planning and development efforts.

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