FORT PIERCE — The former H.D. King Power Plant site should be redeveloped with a conference-center hotel, according to a city report on the future of the 11-acre waterfront site.
According to one city commissioner, the city could go into the hospitality business and run the hotel.
The city solicited input at a community meeting in August, asking residents what they wanted built on the site. More than 50 residents weighed in on the best way to develop the property to set the tone for redeveloping downtown.
The vacant property, between North Indian River Drive and North Second Street, is one of a few pieces of public, undeveloped waterfront sites in downtown.
The city already has made major commitments to downtown redevelopment by renovating the city marina, Veterans Memorial Park and A.E. Backus Museum Gallery and beginning enforcement of two-hour on-street parking.
The city will begin seeking proposals from developers early next year.
If a developer doesn’t bite, City Commissioner Reggie Sessions said, the city should build and manage a hotel itself.
“I believe we can run a hotel just as well as we run a marina,” Sessions said. “It would be just another (city) department.”
Sessions said the city could borrow money “just like we did with the marina” to build a hotel. ”It would pay for itself in no time.”
Residents support developing a hotel downtown to attract more people to the area, according to a report compiled after the community meeting in August.
“The added advantage of having a convention/conference center means that the city would have the ability to attract conferences that bring large numbers of people that will spend money downtown and in our city,” according to the report. “A hotel and convention/conference center would also help the local businesses and events downtown.”
A hotel should be limited to six stories to fit in with existing structures, the report states.
Housing also could be built on the former power-plant site, and the city plans to conduct a market analysis to determine whether condos, townhouses or luxury apartments would be best suited for the location, according to the report.
A small grocery store should be built near any residential construction, according to the report.
This is not the first time city officials proposed mixed-use development for the site.
In 2014, the city’s negotiation with a St. Petersburg developer — to build a hotel, 300 apartments, 55 townhouses and a four-story parking garage — broke down.
The company had offered the city $2 million to buy the property. Residents objected to the deal, saying it was too intense for downtown.
“The city has gained a better understanding of how the community sees the site being redeveloped,” City Manager Nick Mimms said.
The plant was decommissioned in May 2008 and the city has been conducting a cleanup. It should be officially decontaminated by the end of the year, city staff said.
Construction won’t start until cleanup is completed.