Insider: Three Corners proposals are ‘very cool’


Vero Beach Vice Mayor Linda Moore spoke for many in the community when, in a moment of obvious hyperbole, she voiced her growing excitement in anticipation of finally seeing the proposals submitted by the four groups vying to develop the Three Corners site.

“It’s killing me,” she blurted out from the dais at the City Council’s Feb. 13 meeting, knowing that state law prohibited the release of the plans to the public until next Monday.

So, in an attempt to ease everyone’s angst – and with the help of an inside source familiar with each of the proposals – we’re sharing information and insights pertaining to what we can expect to see next week.

Let’s start here: Thus far, anyway, the process created by the city staff and approved by council has produced the desired results, overcoming the current challenges in the construction industry and attracting more qualified proposals than some had predicted.

And, it appears, all four proposals to develop a destination-type dining, retail, social and recreational hub on the mainland’s waterfront are worthy of consideration.

“There’s a winner in the bunch – more than one, actually,” the insider said last week, speaking on the condition of anonymity as the council-approved Three Corners Selection Committee continued to review the proposals submitted by the city’s Feb. 1 deadline.

“One proposal might be more architecturally appealing, and one might offer more certainty in terms of financial capabilities, but three of the four proposals are very cool,” the insider added. “Some of them have very cutting-edge, innovative components that would make a statement to the community and to the market.

“The City Council will have a choice, and I’m confident we’re going to get something done.”

This knowledgeable insider, who wanted to make sure his revelations didn’t hinder the selection process, agreed to share his perspective of the proposals’ contents, but he refused to provide details and would not connect plans to specific development groups.

For example: The insider predicted one of the proposals “will jump out and immediately excite a lot of people,” but when asked why, he said only that the plan included a “signature event-type space” that was “architecturally very distinctive” and overlooked the lagoon.

He didn’t elaborate, nor did he say which of the four developers – Clearpath (Bloomington, Indiana), Edgewater Group (Fort Lauderdale), SUDA Cred Capital, and Madison Marquette (Pompano Beach), and Vista Blue Vero Beach Resort & Spa – included that feature in its proposal.

Speaking in more general terms, however, the insider said many of the components the developers are proposing are “things Vero Beach doesn’t already have.”

That includes a repurposed power plant, which sits on the northern half of the Three Corners’ lagoon-front property and has been defunct since 2015, more than three years before the city sold its electric utility to Florida Power & Light.

Though the insider said “not all” of the proposals would incorporate the plant, affectionately known to longtime locals as “Big Blue,” more than one would preserve and renovate the hulking structure.

Among the possible uses mentioned in the proposals were indoor recreational activities, a food court and rooftop dining.

One amenity included in all four proposals for the 34-acre Three Corners property, which straddles the 17th Street Bridge, was a “fairly robust marina” capable of providing dockage for larger boats, the insider said.

Similarly, he added, all the proposals provided sites for restaurants and bars, and most included retail space. All also were aligned with the city’s Three Corners Concept Plan, which was created by urban-planning guru Andres Duany.

“There were some obvious tweaks,” the insider said, “but as you’ll see when the proposals are made public, nobody went off the reservation.”

Now, though, the real work begins – first for the Selection Committee, then for the City Council.

The committee’s first meeting was scheduled for this week (Wednesday), when its seven members and consultants were to conduct a general discussion of the proposal evaluation process.

It won’t be until April 26, however, that the committee members are expected to meet in public to discuss and rank the proposals, based on their own independent reviews and reports from city-hired consultants.

One consultant, PFM, is investigating and evaluating the financial abilities of the four development groups. The Vero Beach Police Department, meanwhile, will be conducting criminal background checks on the principals.

State law requires the proposals to be treated as sealed bids, thus they will not be made public for 30 business days – which means that, until this coming Monday, only the committee members and consultants are allowed to see them.

Not even the City Council may view them.

The Selection Committee then, as a group, will invite the developers to come to Vero Beach to make in-person presentations and field questions. The date of those sessions was still unknown last week, but city sources said the meeting probably will be held between May 6 and May 20.

The meeting will be open to the public, but the presentations and interviews will be conducted behind closed doors to protect the integrity of the process.

City officials want to prevent one developer from sitting in on the other developers’ presentations and gaining an unfair advantage by knowing what questions the committee asked and how it responded to answers. A video of the presentation sessions will be available on the city’s website the next day.

Once the closed session has been completed, the committee will resume its public meeting to discuss what was learned from the presentations and face-to-face interviews, rank the proposals again and select its top choice for the project.

The committee will then send its recommendation to the City Council, which is scheduled to discuss and decide which proposal to accept at its May 28 meeting, where public input will be welcomed.

By then, however, you can be sure the five council members will have conducted their own reviews of the proposals and become familiar enough with their contents to form opinions.

But the committee members bring expertise from diverse fields, and the council should embrace their input, knowing the magnitude of this decision.

“This is where the rubber meets the road, so I hope the council takes its time and doesn’t rush, just to meet some arbitrary schedule,” the insider said. “This phase of the process should be very deliberative.

“Maybe you take an extra month on the front end to make sure you get it right,” he continued. “Then, if you answer all the tough questions up front, you can shave some time off the negotiations on the back end and still stay within your time frame.

“You can’t just look at the proposals and say, ‘Wow, this one blew me away,’” he added.

“You’ve got to take time to dig into the details to make sure the developers have the financial ability and staying power to execute what they’re proposing.

“It’s not just about the vision.”

Having seen the proposals, the insider said not all the developers provided the same specificity and detail in their financial documents, and that information needs to be produced.

Similarly, two of the development groups – one is the Vista Blue partnership headed by longtime Vero Beach resident and hotel executive Donald Urgo – had previously expressed interest in the Three Corners site, while the other two didn’t begin to prepare their proposals until the city put out its request for them last summer.

“It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison because two of the groups have had a head start,” the insider said, “but that doesn’t mean the other two can’t catch up.”

Certainly, there’s plenty of time: The in-person presentations, which should weigh heavily in the committee’s deliberations, are at least 10 weeks away, and the City Council won’t make a decision until late May.

So, given the transformational impact of this project, the next few months should generate quite a buzz around town.

But try to be patient.

“A lot of people liked the Concept Plan,” the insider said, “and if you liked what you saw then, you’re going to like what you see in these proposals.”

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