Thursday, June 13

Vero Beach hopes revitalization plan will ‘take downtown to the next level’

City leaders in Vero Beach are working on a downtown revitalization plan that they believe will draw more visitors to the area.

In the next 10 years, the heart of Vero Beach could look very different as the city discusses ways to make it more walkable and livable.

“I love it because it’s a small town and it has that small-town atmosphere,” longtime Vero Beach resident William Phillips said.

Many residents enjoy the town’s nightlife.

“The locals, we love to come here because it has a very nice feel, but we need to get a little more entertainment and some livability,” John Mostoller, a longtime Vero Beach resident.

A downtown master plan is in the works to revitalize the area. The Vero Beach City Council approved the first draft at a Tuesday meeting.

“This is really about how we take downtown to the next level,” Jason Jeffries, Vero Beach planning and development director, said. “How do we incentivize new development and new residential development while keeping what is working for downtown?”

The plan could include increasing walkability, adding parking and building affordable housing. But perhaps the most notable change would be the increase in density from 17 units per acre to as much as 60 units per acre. It’s an issue that could be brought to voters in November.

“The city council does not have the authority to increase the density levels in any zoning district in the city,” Jeffries said. “That would actually have to be a referendum by the voters.”

Many Vero Beach residents feel the changes would be a positive.

“When it comes to your restaurants, shops and things like that, meeting a higher density, especially 30, maybe even 60 units per acre, for workforce housing, is essential to keeping employees at these restaurants and stores,” Phil Sunkel, a longtime Vero Beach resident said. “Otherwise they’re living in places like Sebastian and Port St. Lucie and spending their money there.”

“The town is right for it,” Mostoller said. “It needs it. The restaurants would really survive better with them.”

Others hope the changes are made in moderation fearing they could lose the Vero Beach they love.

“I guess I’m for it. … If it’s just not too much,” Phillips said. “I don’t want the whole place filled with condos.”

The city still needs to finalize the plan and decide over what period of time it will be implemented before they get started on the project.

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