A polite assemblage of Vero Beach residents packed the City Hall chambers on Nov. 19, 2019. They came to hear firsthand about options for the shuttered power plant and the wastewater treatment site at the west end of the Alma Lee Loy Bridge from consultant DPZ CoDesign. Despite the firm’s global reputation for thoughtful and environmentally conscious urban planning and coding, some may have feared a big-city, high-density push from the Miami planning firm and its founder, Andres Duany, but his presentation placed the future of the site securely in our hands.
“This project will have extraordinary public input, two full months. This is innovative,” Duany said. “I have never been involved in so thorough an outreach.” He looks out at the audience in the hall. “It is very important that we keep the process interesting and fun. After 40 years of practice, I can say that the process undergone affects the project. If permitted to do this with a light heart and recognize this is nothing but opportunity, we can always bring it back to creativity.”
At stake are three properties: the 17.38-acre site on the northeast corner of 17th Street Causeway and Indian River Boulevard, the adjoining 16.34-acre wastewater treatment plant on the southeast corner, both riverfront, and a smaller 1.5-acre available parcel on the southwest corner. The day after the kickoff at City Hall, we unlock the gate leading to the power plant known locally as Big Blue to get Duany’s first in-person impressions of what is possible on these surprisingly large parcels. Also present from the DPZ team are Xavier Iglesias, the project manager, and Beth Dowdle, the environmental coordinator. Our tour guide is Rob Bolton, director of the Water and Sewer Administration. City Manager Monte Falls and Planning and Development Director Jason Jeffries have seen the property but now will see it with fresh eyes.