Jupiter marina/hotel project expected to be complete by 2014
October 7, 2012
By Bill DiPaolo; Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
JUPITER, Florida —
Motorists passing over the Intracoastal Waterway on Indiantown Road see steam shovels pushing dirt around next to the Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum.
Nick Mastroianni sees the birth of Jupiter’s new downtown.
“Harbourside will have restaurants with outdoor seating on the water. There will be a hotel, retail and offices. Boaters can dock and attend a concert in the amphitheater. Locals and people from all over the area will meet there,” said Mastroianni, the developer of the $144 million project.
Harbourside is expected to bring about 2,000 direct and indirect jobs, including construction. When complete in the spring of 2014, it should generate about $700,000 annually in additional tax revenue. The project is bringing to life a long-dormant prime waterfront parcel.
“Harbourside will be great for north county. The more attractions we have, the better. Instead of going to CityPlace, people will go to Harbourside,” said Beth Kelso, executive director of Abacoa Property Owners Assembly Inc.
But Harbourside has critics, including Councilman Jim Kuretski, the lone dissenter when the project was approved 4-1 in 2008.
Kuretski has consistently voted against several extensions, such as last Tuesday when the council approved moving forward the deadline to Oct. 15 for Allied Capital & Development to buy the town-owned First Union building, on the south end of the 11-acre parcel. The vote also pushed back the deadline requiring certificates of occupancy for Harbourside buildings to be issued. The deadline was late 2013. The new deadline is spring 2014.
“The town is losing an entire year of tax revenue. The public should not be the one losing out,” Kuretski said.
Kuretski is also critical of the town’s plans for the $700,000 in annual tax revenue.
Under a 15-year agreement with the town, up to $350,000 annually — about $5.3 million over 15 years — will go for Harbourside improvements, such as infrastructure and construction. The other up to $350,000o annually will go to the town’s Community Redevelopment Agency.
“No wonder the developer loves this deal. It’s not his money he is risking,” Kuretski said.
Creating a new downtown is a complicated task, said George de Guardiola, the developer of Abacoa, the non-gated residential/business/entertainment community off Donald Ross Road that includes Roger Dean Stadium.
Downtowns must have more than retail, office and entertainment. A strong civic presence that includes annual events for families such as fireworks, Easter egg hunts and winter festivals, regularly held in Abacoa, are required. So are people living in the downtown, said de Guardiola. No living areas are planned in Harbourside.
“Abacoa is Jupiter’s downtown,” said de Guardiola.
To finance its new downtown, Palm Beach Gardens-based Allied is using the federal EB-5 program. EB-5 allows foreign nationals to gain U.S. citizenship in about two years in exchange for a $500,000 investment.
Started in 1993 to attract foreign investment, EB-5 allows foreigners, their spouses and children younger than 21 to gain U.S. citizenship. Each investment must create 10 direct or indirect jobs in two years. Applicants must be approved by the Department of Homeland Security.
During the four years since the council approved Harbourside, Allied representatives traveled repeatedly to Russia, China, South Korea and other nations seeking financing. The town paid $3,200 in 2010 to send Jupiter Finance Director Mike Villella to China on one trip with Allied officials.
The town has confirmed at least 100 investors have signed up, the minimum number required for Allied to buy and demolish the First Union building, according to Jupiter records. In fact, the total is 124, Mastroianni said.
That brings total investment to about $62 million. The remaining $82 million to build Harbourside will come from additional EB-5 investors and borrowing, he said.
President Obama signed legislation Sept. 28 to extend EB-5 three years. The program has about 200 locations nationwide and “has attracted billions of dollars in foreign investment to the United States, creating tens of thousands of new jobs here,” according to Obama.
The next step the public will see is the demolition of the First Union building planned for later this month. The town has rented the first floor of the two-story building to the Reynolds museum for $1 a year since 2004.
A new museum housing movie memorabilia from movies such as Smokey and the Bandit and Deliverance is planned on an acre of vacant property adjacent to Fire Station 18 in Burt Reynolds Park on the east side of U.S. 1. Volunteers are raising money for the new museum.
“We want Harbourside to succeeed,” said Councilwoman Wendy Harrison. “It’s good for the town.”