FORT PIERCE, Fla. — A new development proposed for an area of South Hutchinson Island could change the face of that area, and it has a lot of people talking.
The development, called "Boardwalk on the Inlet," would be built on the 4.8 acres of space between Manatee Island Bar and Grill and Square Grouper Tiki Bar on Seaway Drive, facing the Fort Pierce Jetty.
Currently, the lot is a gravel parking lot with some patches of grass, a few trees, and a sidewalk that runs along the waterfront.
The lot's owner, Sandy Woods, the owner of Treasure Coast Lexus, told WPTV he purchased the land in 2020 and has since bought three more homes in the area surrounding it. He said he had hoped to develop the space since purchasing it.
"It's a seasonal area, and there's no real hotels for people to stay in because they're all filled up, so there's a necessity for it," Woods said.
The project would include 103 condos in two locations along with two hotels. One would likely be a Hilton Homewood Suites with 119 rooms and the other would be a luxury hotel named Aqua with 40 rooms.
There would also be two rooftop bars, an 18,000-square-foot event center with a 6,000-square-foot ballroom, a boardwalk and five to seven restaurants.
"We're also allocating space for retail," Woods said.
"This is going to be a massive project, one of the biggest privately held offerings on the Treasure Coast in history."
Woods said before pitching it, he and his team conducted a feasibility, flood mitigation, traffic and economic impact study.
"The traffic study said there needed to be a left turn lane off of seaway into the project," Woods said.
Other than that, he said nothing else needs to change, and added no residents will be displaced. He also said the area will still be open to the public for fishing and recreation, and the area will include several green spaces.
Fort Pierce City Commissioner Jeremiah Johnson, whose district covers that area, said he has his own concerns that need to be addressed, including more flood and stormwater studies, as well as additional traffic impacts.
However, he said all of that will be addressed during the review process, and said his constituents will get several chances to weigh in.
He also said he's excited about the project, himself.
"It brings in tourism, and there's one thing I know for sure, if you ask folks what’s missing, it would be the tourism component,” Johnson said. "Folks, when they come here, it's like, 'Where do I stay?' Well, for me, this site used to be an old hotel. So, what better project than to have some components of hotels being brought right back here."
People in the community gave WPTV mixed reactions.
Many, including the owner of Manatee Island Bar and Grill, told WPTV they're in favor of the project, and are extremely excited about the increased revenue it would bring.
Others, like born-and-raised resident Robert Camp, had reservations.
"This isn’t' Miami, this isn't Palm Beach, I don’t want this to be Palm Beach," Camp said. "Could be a good thing, could be a bad thing."
"It's huge. Huge," Rita Etherington said. She and her husband, Alan, were fishing in the Jetty at the time, something they said they do often.
"We've been spoiled having this all to ourselves. We really don’t want to share it to be honest with you," Alan Etherington said.
"I guess we can kind of look at it both ways," added Rita Etherington, who did say it would be nice to have an event space nearby. "It's going to impact the traffic coming onto the island because the traffic on a beautiful day or on a weekend is just crazy."
The project is by no means set in stone.
Woods and Johnson said it still has to pass several checkpoints with the city and its residents before commissioners even vote on it.
That process includes a pre-construction meeting, where the city will tell Woods all the requirements for the city.
Once Woods and his team submit their plan, the project manager will take it to each department to make sure it is compliant with all requirements.
Once that's done, it goes to the zoning and planning committee, and then a planning board made up of residents, who get a chance to weigh in.
If it makes it that far, it goes to the City Commission for a final vote.
Woods expected this process would take about six months.
If it passes, the city issues Woods a building permit, and construction begins, which Woods believes would take another two years to complete, with the project being built in three phases.
As of now though, if the project even goes through, it won't be complete for another two-and-a-half years.