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press room: Port Votes to Push Major Projects

Port votes to push major projects

BY WAYNE T. PRICE • FLORIDA TODAY • September 16, 2010

PORT CANAVERAL— Canaveral Port Authority commissioners on Wednesday unanimously approved proceeding with a major development project that would change the face of the south side area there known as "the Cove."

They also set the stage for future private development and fundraising by a nonprofit group.

Commissioners agreed to move forward with designing a visitors' center, a pedestrian promenade leading to the water and "the shell" of a maritime exhibition center that would highlight the history of Florida and the Space Coast.

These would require an estimated $8 million commitment from the port over the next three years to take them from design through construction.

The port will now begin the process of soliciting bids for this early design work.

Funding for the development of an exhibition center beyond the shell, as well as an associated observation tower, would fall to a local nonprofit organization called the 1513 Foundation Inc., which was formed to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon's landing in Florida. Many historians say that landing occurred in south Brevard County.

"We're talking about raising tens of millions of dollars," said Robyn Fern Perlman, a principal with Miami-based CoreStrategies for Non Profits Inc., the company working with the 1513 Foundation to raise donations.

The commissioners' action Wednesday comes as port officials, with the blessing of many merchants in and around the Cove, put greater emphasis on developing the south side of the port and making it more attractive to private developers and tourists.

In the last two decades, most of the attention to the port has been on the north side, where cruise ships draw millions of passengers to Brevard each year and cargo ships load and unload tons of goods.

Commissioners on Wednesday also gave the go-ahead for a series of Cove-area road and infrastructure improvements -- estimated to cost about $3 million -- called for in the 2011 budget. They also approved spending nearly $10,000 for site design for a "Cove Marketplace," an open-air merchant area designed to attract port-of-call travelers and other visitors. 

 

J. Stanley Payne, chief executive officer of the Canaveral Port Authority, said developing the Cove and building some type of maritime or visitors' center is a concept that has been tossed around for decades. The time to act is now, he said, because the port is doing well financially, and other support elements, such as the 1513 Foundation, are in place to assist.

 

"If we don't, 10 years from now people are going to be walking around the Cove and saying, 'What wonderful potential this has,' " Payne said.

A number of Cove business operators applauded the commission after its vote.

Tom Goodson, the authority's chairman, urged people to keep their excitement measured. There's a possibility of four new commissioners being elected this November, Goodson said, and they might have a different outlook on the Cove's development. Goodson is leaving the commission to become a member of the Florida Legislature.

"This, right now, is still conceptual," he said of the plan. "It's going to take a lot of effort on everyone's part."

Commissioners questioned Steve Cecil, president of the Boston-based Cecil Group that Port Canaveral officials hired to create a concept for the Cove development project, about existing business operators buying into the plan and whether or not they would improve their properties in line with the future development.

"We would hope that happens," Cecil said. "It would be in their interest to do it."

Contact Price at 242-3658 or wprice@floridatoday.com.