NewsTreasure CoastRegion Indian River CountyVero Beach


Revitalization project aims to boost business, tourism, housing in downtown Vero Beach

Mayor John Cotugno says master plan focuses on increased walkability, incentivizing businesses, creating more housing
Posted at 8:57 PM, Nov 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-02 21:06:53-04

VERO BEACH, Fla. — Downtown Vero Beach may soon get a makeover.

In Tuesday's meeting, City Council members voted 4-1 to create a master plan aimed at boosting business, tourism and potentially adding more housing downtown.

It's a reaction, in part, to the growth in Indian River County.

"It's been picking up. We have a lot of entertainment (and) dining venues down there. We have a lot of people invested in boutiques, but it needs to get to the next level," Vero Beach Mayor John Cotugno said. "How do you do that?"

Cotugno said the plan will be threefold.

Vero Beach Mayor John Cotugno discusses master plan for downtown, Nov. 2, 2023
Vero Beach Mayor John Cotugno discusses his thoughts about the revitalization of downtown, Nov. 2, 2023, in Vero Beach, Fla.

First, he said, the city will focus on increasing walkability throughout the downtown area by beautifying and widening sidewalks, adding more parking and bicycle lanes, and narrowing road lanes as part of the Twin Pairs project.

Cotugno said the second approach involves getting more people to come to the city by incentivizing more businesses to expand to downtown Vero Beach.

The third approach centers around getting people to be in the city by adding more housing. Currently, Cotugno said, the city is looking at adding workforce housing on a 14-acre plot of land outside the downtown area and adding mixed-use areas throughout Vero Beach.

Downtown Vero Beach revitalization would include more parking and bicycle lanes, Nov. 2, 2023
The city wants to add more parking and bicycle lanes in downtown Vero Beach, Fla.

Cotugno said that would require a density zoning change from 16 units per acre to 30 units per acre. That does not affect the height of buildings downtown.

"My belief, and the Council's belief, is if you're going to ask people to do that, you need to put together a comprehensive plan, show them how you're going to do it," Cotugno said.

WPTV talked to several business owners, many of whom, such as Joey Lucchini, owner of Joey's Downtown Dapper Barbershop, were in favor of it.

"I'm on board for that," Lucchini said. "I'm ready to keep this thing rolling."

Audrey Mosel, the owner of the Seahorse Lane Boutique, agreed.

Audrey Mosel, owner of Seahorse Lane Boutique, excited about downtown Vero Beach revitalization, Nov. 2, 2023
Audrey Mosel, the owner of Seahorse Lane Boutique, is excited about the revitalization of downtown Vero Beach, Fla.

"It's just so exciting for Vero," Mosel said. "You know, we've needed this for a really long time."

Others, like Stephanie Lucchini, the owner of ice cream parlor Downtown Dipper, said she was in favor of revitalizing the downtown area, but not in every aspect.

"Do I agree [with] some of the changes they are proposing? No," said Lucchini. "I don't agree with making, you know, the main road ... smaller. I don't agree with adding parking. I think that would just add confusion."

Cotugno said all opinions will be taken into consideration as the City Council continues to develop a plan.

The mayor said city leaders are hoping to have a final plan drafted by the end of May. If the city does plan to include a density change in the plan to revitalize, the change would need to be placed on a referendum for voters to decide.