Buyer Found for Key Riverwalk Parcel (FL)

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL, 5/29/03 – The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today that it has entered into an agreement to sell a 9.75-acre site on the St. Lucie River to Premier Equity Financial Inc./Building Innovations Inc., a Port St. Lucie-based investment/ development partnership. The site will be commercially developed as an integral part of the city’s RiverWalk project.

“We are very pleased to be working with Charles Gilman and James Culp of Premier Equity Financial, Inc. and Ray Chladny and Bob Rothe of Building Innovations Inc.,” said Greg Chelius, director of TPL’s Florida Office. “The general plan proposed by the firm meets TPL’s goals for a development that is compatible with the adjacent parkland and shows a clear understanding of the what the people of Port St. Lucie want and deserve – a world-class riverside park and commercial amenity in their downtown.”

The Trust has owned the property since October 2002, when it purchased the parcel as part of a larger 41.5-acre site. In late December 2002, title to a little more than 31 acres of the tract was transferred to the city for use as a park and active recreation area. Funding for the park purchase came from St. Lucie County’s Environmentally Endangered Lands Program and the state’s Florida Communities Trust grant program. The city was eager to integrate commercial, retail and other compatible businesses into the planned RiverWalk complex. In May 2002, the city commission approved land uses on the site for that purpose. TPL has held the property since last October while the organization looked for a suitable developer. The Premier Equity/Building Innovations partnership was one of several entities vying for the chance to develop the property. The purchase price for the property is $2.3 million.

“This site will be more than a footprint,” said Jack Kelly, Port St. Lucie City Councilman, District IV. “It’s the beginning of the RiverWalk, and it will put the entire project back on the front burner with the flame turned up – all due to the efforts of the Trust for Public Land.”

“We were particularly impressed with the creativity and environmental ethic apparent in Premier’s projects,” Chelius said. “They demonstrated a great deal of insight and sensitivity to the issue of design compatibility with the adjacent parkland, yet also understand our desire for this project to be an economic catalyst for the city. We are confident they will respect the natural beauty of the bordering landscape and develop a site plan that is in harmony with the river and the RiverWalk.”

The site lies between the active and passive portions of the park site. It includes a 150-foot conservation/access easement along the water’s edge that was conveyed by TPL to the city to ensure connectivity between the two park parcels, enable the construction of the RiverWalk, and provide a buffer between the future commercial development and the fragile North Fork of the river. TPL has committed to provide funding for construction of the Riverwalk along the 1300-foot riverside border of the entire 41.5-acre property.

“We at Premier Equity Financial, Inc. and Building Innovations Inc.are honored and privileged to accept this opportunity to contribute and be apart of the Riverwalk project,” said Charles Gilman, president of Premier Equity Financial Inc. “We are looking forward to working closely with the City of Port St Lucie and the Trust for Public Land to create an exquisite beautification of the RiverWalk Project, a ‘Destination Place’ that all will enjoy in a live, work and play environment.”

The agreement entered into by TPL and Premiere Equity/Building Innovations calls for the company to develop a conceptual site plan in conjunction with the city for the entire 41-acre site within the next 60 days. TPL will have the right to comment on the plan. The plan for the 31-acre park portion of the site must be compatible with a master plan submitted as part of the Florida Communities Trust application process, as well.

“We intend to stay very involved in this process,” Chelius said.

A master plan completed by the city for the RiverWalk suggests a number of possible uses for the commercial parcel, including a hotel, conference center, public swimming pool complex, and several retail shops. The final development plan will be subject to a detailed Planned Unit Development site plan that must be approved by the city, and which could vary somewhat from the RiverWalk Master Plan.

About TPL: The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 1.6 million acres of land in 45 states, including almost 200,000 acres at 270 sites in Florida. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. For more information please contact us at (850) 222-7911.