City land deals fast and furious in jobs corridor

Port St. Lucie expects to sell $10 million worth of city-owned land in the Tradition Commerce Center by the end of the year.

The city spent $6.8 million in carrying costs, mainly for assessments, since taking over 1,223 acres in the commerce center from Tradition Land Co. on June 28, 2018.

The city sold two parcels on Discovery Way totaling 10.6 acres for $473,016 since the takeover. The sales reduced the city’s share of the commerce center assessments by about $62,000.

Those were the highlights of an update administrators and planners gave the City Council Monday about progress in the former citrus grove along Interstate 95 dubbed the “Tradition Jobs Corridor.”

The council also voted unanimously to pay the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council $225,000 to formulate a master plan for the jobs corridor. The city is expected to finalize the plan in July 2020.

The city must continue marketing and selling land in the commerce center to bring in revenue and reduce expenses while the master plan is being developed, several council members said.

“The odds have gone up for there being a recession in 2020,” said Mayor Greg Oravec. “We’re getting a lot of activity right now, but in a recession activity obviously recedes. So, we’ve got to get while the getting is good.”

A team of planners, developers and finance experts from the Urban Land Institute studied Tradition Commerce Center last year and advised the city to hold off on land sales until the master plan is completed.

But none of the councilmembers agreed with that idea. “I don’t want us to just sit there and say, ‘We’re just going to wait for a year, unless somebody comes to us,’” said Vice Mayor Shannon Martin. “We need to be more proactive than that.”

City officials disclosed two new proposed land sales Monday as part of an option agreement with Tambone Companies of Palm Beach Gardens. Tambone Companies has entered letters of intent to sell 22 acres to two developers as part of its option agreement with the city, said Community Redevelopment Director Wes McCurry.

Brightwork Real Estate of West Palm Beach, a commercial developer, wants to buy a 6-acre parcel on the southeast corner of Discovery Way and Village Parkway for a medical and retail building, McCurry said.

AHS Residential of Miami, a workforce housing developer, wants to buy 16-acre site on the northeast corner of Village Parkway and Trade Center Drive for an apartment complex.

Tambone Companies paid $763,966 for the exclusive right to market, sell and development of 84 acres fronting I-95 for two years. The company and city will split the proceeds.

Three other deals that have been in the works for more than a year are still moving forward, said McCurry and City Manager Russ Blackburn.

Closing seems imminent on the deal to sell 9.75 acres on Discovery Way for $763,966 to Oculus Surgical for a 50,000-square-foot eye exam and surgery equipment factory, Blackburn said.

An issue holding up the deal has been resolved and the purchase and sales agreement will be updated, Blackburn said.

The city is still negotiating with Accel International, a Connecticut-based cable and wire manufacturer, on a $1.7 million deal for a 40-acre tract on I-95.

The city is also still negotiating with Publix Supermarkets on a 20-acre parcel on the northeastern corner of Becker Road and Village Parkway, two thirds of a mile west of I-95, McCurry said. That agreement will soon be ready for council approval.

In addition, the city has agreed to lease a 25-acre site near Village Parkway to Somerset Career Academy PSL for a vocational-technical charter school for grades 6-12. The charter is under review by the St. Lucie County School Board.

Blackburn said he expects to present the council with an update Monday, Aug. 26, on the city’s negotiations with Cleveland Clinic and Australian biotech researcher Vaxine Ltd., to take over the former Vaccine & Gene Therapy Institute Florida laboratory.

The city took title to the building in August 2017 after the failure of VGTI in part because federal health research grants dried up.

The city owes $57 million in principal on the bonds used to finance the construction of the custom-built laboratory. The city also pays $1.5 million annually to maintain and operate the building.

In addition, the city owes $121 million in principal on the bonds used to finance the construction of roads and drainage, water and sewer utilities in and around the commerce center, city records show.

The city pays $5 million annually to cover the principal and interest on the bonds.

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