Sunday, March 3

Audubon Development makes push for Fort Pierce Brightline station at King’s Landing

Both the cities of Stuart and Fort Pierce are busy finalizing their requests for proposal to Brightline as the deadline to submit an application for a new Brightline station by Friday quickly approaches.

Now, WPTV has learned a new applicant has officially thrown their hat in the ring for a station a well-known Treasure Coast developer that’s been in the news before.

Fort Pierce city commissioners unanimously voted Monday to support a request for proposal from Audubon Development, the creator of King’s Landing in Fort Pierce.

Dale Matteson, the company’s CEO, has talked about adding a Brightline station to the $140 million development ever since it was proposed to be built on the old waterfront H.D. King plant in 2019.

Mayor Linda Hudson said Wednesday that Matteson’s proposal won’t affect the city’s own proposal for a station at the old depot lot located behind the Sunrise Theatre. Hudson said she’s in full support of it.

“King’s Landing is a development we’ve already approved,” Hudson said. “We have two different locations, either one will be great. “It would allow people to visit here and see how special we are. They’ll tell more people, so it would help in tourist dollars and in development and people finding out how special this place is.”

St. Lucie County’s Tourism Development Council, Visit St. Lucie, which is an advisory board to county commissioners, voted last week to provide a $250,000 tourism-funded ridership commitment over the next three years.

“Essentially what that means is we would purchase $250,000 worth of Brightline tickets that we would then market as vacation packages,” Charlotte Bireley, director of tourism and marketing, said.

According to the latest Brightline ridership numbers, the number of people taking the passenger train to Orlando doubled.

Brightline reported in September that more than 17,578 long-distance customers (those riding between Orlando and South Florida) paid an average fare of $84 for a total of $1.5 million in revenue. Through just the first half of October, 40,219 customers rode the train and paid an average fare of $91, more than doubling the previous amount of riders.

“Everybody is interested and supports it. We have huge interest in this county, St. Lucie County, Port St. Lucie and the municipalities to the north, Indian River, and to the west, Okeechobee,” Hudson said.

Michael Croke, the owner of Beach Bowls Superfood Cafe in downtown Fort Pierce, is right between the King’s Landing and Sunrise Theater locations. He said either way you slice it if a station is built in Fort Pierce, he benefits.

“We are extremely close,” Croke said. “Even if one person came in off the train to get a smoothie each day, that would be incredible for us. Either way, we hope it comes to Fort Pierce. Whether it’s King’s Landing or behind the Sunrise Theatre, it will definitely boost business.”

However, not everyone’s on board with the construction of a new Brightline station.

The Alliance for Safe Trains of Vero Beach told WPTV that since only a fraction of the train’s 32 cars are stopping on the Treasure Coast per day once a station is built, they don’t feel the economic impact will be enough to offset safety concerns.

All applicants to Brightline have until Friday to submit proposals.

Bireley said the ridership commitment is not final, St. Lucie County officials will still need to sign off on it.

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