STUART, Fla. — A "trashy" piece of Stuart may be getting a facelift.
For years, a former landfill near the intersection of Monterey Road and Willoughby Boulevard has been a bit of an eyesore and environmental concern for city officials.
The nearly 50-acre plot of land started off as a landfill in the 1940s but became what's known as a "brownfield" in the 1980s. A "brownfield" is defined as a plot of land abandoned due to pollution from its former use.
Currently, it's owned by the city of Stuart, and has been leased to other businesses a few times in the past, but nothing ever came of the land, which is currently valued at more than $1 million, according to the property appraiser's office.
Now, Ashley Capital, one of the largest privately-owned industrial real estate investment firms in the country, is looking to turn that around.
The Stuart City Council unanimously approved the company's request Monday to conduct a feasibility study into turning the site into an industrial manufacturing center, something Ashley Capital specializes in, especially in areas that need it.
"The city does not have a lot of a lot of light industrial land left in its core, so this site could really be a great job creator for the city, for its residents," Jill Marasa, Ashley Capital's director of development for the Treasure Coast, said.
Stuart Mayor Troy McDonald added that he believes the project would be a huge economic driver for the city.
"That's going to increase our tax base, but more importantly, it's going to create the opportunity for high-paying manufacturing jobs, which is really what we want to do, uplift our local community with better jobs," McDonald said.
McDonald also believes the project could clean up the city's sore spot.
"Returning it to a clean, developable site," McDonald said.
Both McDonald and Marasa said the site would be for a "light industrial center," meaning a small to medium-sized facility — not nearly as large as an Amazon warehouse.
McDonald said likely industries include everything from maritime equipment manufacturing to a transportation warehouse.
"You know, your Last Mile Logistics," McDonald said.
Several people in the community told WPTV they were excited about the potential jobs the project would bring.
"I think it's a great idea," Eleanor Martin said. "It should be used for something other than a landfill, especially on your way downtown."
Others like Rick DeRoxtra see the potential it could bring but has some hesitation.
"Great use for a warehouse, positive use," DeRoxtra said, "but I think you need time for people to mull that over."
Resident Fred Eubanks, however, is worried about the congestion that an industrial center could bring.
"Let's don't do it, period," Eubanks said. "This [traffic] keeps building up out here."
Marasa added even after the feasibility study is complete, Ashley Capital will conduct several more studies looking at traffic, environmental and other impacts before ever moving ahead with the project.
"Once we understand what can be on the site, the footprint of the site, we'll certainly look at the traffic impacts, work with the neighbors," Marasa said.
It's important to note, however, that the only approval given was for the feasibility study. The official project has not yet been approved. If Ashley Capital is still interested in the project after the feasibility study, the city's review process will begin.
Marasa said the feasibility study is expected to take six months.