JENSEN BEACH, Fla. — Citizens in Jensen Beach told WPTV they're torn over a new development potentially planned for the waterfront.
According to preliminary plans from architect Marcela Camblor, the community would be called Riverlight, and would include a waterfront restaurant, a dog park and much more.
The community would be built on a vacant plot of land, just south of Snook Nook tackle shop, a five-minute walk north of downtown Jensen Beach.
Camblor said the waterfront lot used to have cottages and homes, but ever since the late 1970s, has been abandoned. It remains private property and is still currently closed off to the public, technically.
If the plan goes through, that empty space would turn into two public plazas for the community, the abandoned building on the water would become a waterfront restaurant, and the space across the street, which used to be home to the Bridge View Apartments, would turn into dozens of single and multi-family homes, which Camblor said would be built in Jensen Beach style.
"We wanted to keep the character, the beach town feel, the front porches, the Florida "cracker" style," Camblor said.
Still, not everyone was thrilled about it. Resident Angel Levenrock said she worries about the potential traffic and feared a loss of green space.
"Florida's been losing a lot of that with everyone coming down. I liked Florida the way it used to be," Levenrock said. "I think Jensen is developed enough as it is. There's a lot of traffic."
Camblor, however, addressed that concern.
"Even though it looks green and overgrown, there was development here before. All of it was private, and unless you lived here or you came to this development, you couldn't use it," Camblor said. "What this project is going to do is make all these streets public. Make all these greens, including a dog park, publicly accessible."
She also said for decades there has been a vision to turn the site into a space for the community, and within five minutes of downtown, she said the economic benefits help the community and county.
"The investment here, the profit, the taxable value of the investment gets spent again in Jensen Beach," Camblor said.
Camblor also addressed the traffic concerns, and told WPTV, while development usually does create more traffic, she said the site plan will likely create more walkability.
"They will have a choice to walk to a grocery store, to walk to a downtown restaurant, to walk to entertainment or just walk to the waterfront and visit neighbors," she said. "It's a very different pattern of development."
At Snook Nook, General Manager Alec Baker said the tackle shop has certainly stood the test of time.
"[The business has] been here since 1949," he said. "[It has] definitely seen its fair share of change."
For that reason, Baker said he could see both sides to the debate over yet another change.
"I think there's going to be positives and negatives to it," he said. "A lot of the locals want to keep it that hidden little beach town."
Baker said he also sees several benefits to the potential development and could get excited about it.
"It’s nice that we're going to build something where the people that live here are going to have something to do," he said, "something to talk about, something to see, instead of just building homes."
At the end of the day, Baker added he feels change always comes with ups and downs, and knows if Snook Nook survived change this far, it most certainly will again.
"Yeah, I mean, where's the ceiling? It can only go up," he said.
Right now, the project is by no means final. It's currently undergoing Martin County's review process.
However, the planners of the project want the public's input. While there is no date set yet, they will at some point be scheduling public hearings to hear the community's questions and concerns.