Three Corners: A spectacular proposal


That was my immediate reaction when I went to the City of Vero Beach’s website last week and began perusing what proved to be – at first glance, anyway – the most compelling of the four proposals for the development of the Three Corners site.

The detailed, well-presented and wonderfully illustrated proposal submitted by a partnership headed by Clearpath Services of Bloomington, Indiana, is more than impressive.

It’s spectacular, which, I suppose, is what you’d expect from a $500 million proposal.

It also contains everything we could have hoped for, going all the way back to November 2019, when the City Council formed a steering committee to discuss the creation of a dining, retail, social and recreational hub on the mainland’s waterfront.

As I scrolled through the 218 pages, the digitally generated renderings of what Clearpath has planned for the Three Corners seemed to jump off the computer screen, far exceeding my expectations for the 17-acre, lagoon-front property on which the city’s defunct electric plant now sits.

The more I saw, in fact, the more excited I became about the possibility of Vero Beach being home to a dazzling, lagoon-front, something-for-everyone destination unlike any other on the Treasure Coast.

That doesn’t mean we should ignore the other three proposals, submitted by the Su-Da, CREC Capital, Madison Marquette partnership of Pompano Beach; Vista Blue Vero Beach Resort & Spa; and the Edgewater Group of Fort Lauderdale.

All three meet the city’s criteria, and at least two of them are worthy of consideration, though one group needs to answer a few questions. The third proposal raises some concerns.

Not only does Edgewater’s $154.3 million proposal come across as too marina-centric – its 262 boat slips are more than double the number provided by the other developers’ plans – but it also includes an automated dry-stack boat-storage facility.

In addition, its master plan map designates space for a “future condo development site,” without stating whether the units would be affiliated with the on-property hotel.

For those wondering: The city’s Three Corners Concept Plan doesn’t allow for residential use, unless it is connected with an on-site hotel.

As for the other proposals …

The SuDa group, which city officials said was the last of the respondents to engage, brings a strong reputation and a highly specialized team with longstanding relationships in the industry.

Its $144.3 million proposal includes an “urban chic” hotel with 175 to 225 rooms, state-of-the-art marina, waterfront restaurants, market-row retail, meeting hall, central park and “food bazaar” in partnership with the highly success Oxbow Public Market in Napa, California.

SuDa is also proposing the creation of a hotel-affiliated “Beach Club” for guests and members on a city-owned, four-acre parcel adjacent to South Beach Park.

Although the group states in its proposal that it would be making a “substantial investment in upgrading the existing facilities that will enhance the beach experience for every resident of Vero Beach,” some city officials wondered if aspects of the club would be off-limits to non-members.

The proposal states that “private events” could be held there.

The most obvious concern with SuDa’s proposal was its lack of specificity, despite two of the group’s principals, Bill Becker and Edgar Jones, having Vero Beach connections.

“Our intention is to use best efforts to integrate the Big Blue into our plans as it is a historic landmark for Vero Beach,” the proposal states. “We will finalize a plan upon being awarded the project.”

However, one prominent local official said SuDa’s proposal almost certainly will be further developed when the group makes its face-to-face presentation to the city’s Selection Committee in May.

“They didn’t have as much time to invest in preparing their proposal as some of the other groups,” the official said, “which have been interested in this property for a year or more.”

One of those groups is the Vista Blue Vero Beach partnership headed by longtime Indian River Shores resident Don Urgo, president and CEO of Maryland-based Urgo Hotels & Resorts.

The group’s $172 million proposal – as do the others submitted on the Feb. 1 deadline – would provide the amenities the city is seeking (see accompanying story). On Monday, in fact, Urgo informed Vero Beach 32963 that he had received a commitment from Marriott International to build a 225-room, four-star resort-style hotel at the Three Corners.

But Vista Blue’s proposal raises a potentially troubling concern: What if the cost of repurposing Big Blue isn’t financially practical, and the development group – to get the desired rate of return on its investment – needs to build a hotel that exceeds the city’s 50-foot height limit?

The group offers a solution.

“… If for some reason it is not feasible to keep the Great Hall,” the proposal states, “we suggest not being held to the 50-foot height restriction.”

Urgo and his team may suggest it, but that’s not going happen. It can’t happen without a referendum, which would delay a project scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2028.

And the voters are not likely to approve it. Everyone – including the members of Vero Beach’s City Council – knows it.

So suggesting the city might need to waive its height limit probably isn’t going to help Vista Blue’s chances.

But unless we discover some yet-to-be-found flaw in Clearpath’s plan or partnership – which includes Indiana neighbors The Ridge Group of Muncie and DMJR Development of Indianapolis, as well as the HOK architectural firm, Westminster Capital, Ennismore hospitality, Bellingham Marine and Turner Construction – this one is no contest.

If you’ll allow me a brief return to my sports-writing days: Clearpath’s proposal is Secretariat in the 1973 Belmont Stakes, where he won horse racing’s first Triple Crown in 25 years with a mind-boggling 31-length victory.

Unless Clearpath’s jockey – company founder Randy Lloyd has vacationed in Vero Beach for years – somehow falls off the horse during negotiations with the city, this race is over.

It was fitting, really, that Lloyd and the other principals in Clearpath’s group included in their proposal a quote from British business magnate Richard Branson: “It’s only by being bold that you get anywhere.”

They didn’t hold anything back, apparently confident they can come up with the capital necessary to finance a project of such magnitude.

The Clearpath group has been meeting with community leaders and talking with a range of local residents for more than two years to prepare a plan that would accommodate the city’s vision for the Three Corners property.

“Our team members have attended numerous community meetings, engaged numerous community members, spoke with several community organizations and businesses, toured the facilities and, generally, have actively dedicated ourselves to be listeners and learners from all who have shared their thoughts and hopes for the site,” the proposal states.

“From our active engagement, we have created an informed and exciting redevelopment vision for Three Corners,” it added. “We think you will agree.”

I do.

Clearpath’s innovative proposal, which would preserve and repurpose the former “Big Blue” power plant, includes plans for:

  • A 145-room 21c Museum Hotel with a cottages and a conference center;
  • 500-seat waterfront event center;
  • Great food hall, restaurants, retail shops and galleries;
  • Waterfront Village with a marina, sloping-lawn amphitheater, kayak and paddleboard canal, and fishing pier.
  • Pedestrian walkways that connect a central park to a series of smaller parks.

Clearpath’s proposal also showed an awareness and understanding of our community by connecting the Three Corners development to the city’s downtown, beachside business district, parks and other shopping areas via GoLine bus service, sidewalks, bike baths and watercraft.

Then there’s the credibility Clearpath brings to the table – not only with its own accomplishments, but through the caliber of its partners.

HOK, for example, ranks among the world’s most respected design, architecture, engineering and planning firms, operating 26 offices on three continents. Its list of projects includes the design of Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, upgrade of Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium and the redesign of New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

“You look at their proposal, you look at what they’ve done in the past, and you look at their partnerships,” one city official said last weekend, “and you don’t see any negatives.”

What you see is what we’re were all hoping for when we first started talking about developing the Three Corners site into something special, something this community needs, something you look at and think, “Wow!”

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