April 23, 2024

Southeast Florida Roundup

Flight of ambition: St. Lucie has big plans for its small airport

Mike Vogel | 6/28/2016

With 3,844 acres, the St. Lucie County-owned airport has more land than the economic dynamos of Miami International, Fort Lauderdale- Hollywood and Palm Beach International to the south. It has a full-time U.S. Customs facility, sits near I-95 and is home to about 50 mostly small businesses.

What it lacks is recognition, scheduled commercial service and economic engines to take advantage of its largely vacant land. To move toward addressing those needs, the county last year started the process of renaming the airport Treasure Coast International Airport and Business Park. The “international” comes mostly from private and corporate flights to and from the Bahamas, with some flights to Canada and Europe. The airport’s 6,492-foot runway can handle 737s and 757s, including the plane President Obama arrived on in 2015 for a weekend of golf at the ultra-private Floridian National Golf Club and in June.

County leaders want to see Treasure Coast become a regional hub for job-creating aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul work and air-related businesses. It’s too close to the major airports to dream of much more than regional commercial carrier service.

Space at its facility is cheap compared to the larger airports. Of the 50 businesses now there, says Airport manager John Wiatrak, who left Orlando’s airport operation three years ago, “their backstory is, ‘We used to be in Miami but … .’”

This year the airport is starting construction of a new Customs building and, thanks to money from the state, a 30,000-sq.-ft. hangar.

There’s precedent for Treasure Coast’s hopes. Melbourne International, just 50 miles north, enjoys success with its focus on serving the air industry beyond passenger traffic. It’s the centerpiece of a cluster of good-wage aerospace and defense employers, Embraer and lesser known MRO facilities that nevertheless handle 747s and other large aircraft.

“They obviously do a fantastic job,” says Treasure Coast’s Wiatrak. “When people ask me, ‘What do you want to be like?’ I say, ‘Melbourne.’ ”


Fort Lauderdale-based Miller Legg promoted Michael D. Kroll to president.

Simon Property promoted David Gott to general manager of its Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, succeeding Luanne Lenberg. With more than 350 stores and restaurants, the mall is a top tourism and shopping draw in Florida. It’s undergoing several expansion projects.


High-End Spec

Delray Beach luxury home builder Frank McKinney builds homes on spec, averaging $14 million per sale, drawing notice from media around the world. In his latest innovation, McKinney will build a “micro-mansion” in Ocean Ridge. High-end people want luxury in a manageable size, he says, promising all the luxury finishes found in a full mansion. His will have a sun deck between two pools, sea-glass kitchen counters and a second-floor outdoor shower with trees growing into it. He unveiled his plan at a fundraiser for his foundation that builds villages in Haiti. At 4,000 square feet, the McKinney micro-mansion is hardly a shotgun shack. He anticipates getting $4 million to $10 million for it.

Business Briefs

THE ACREAGE — The 1st District Court of Appeal rejected challenges to Palm Beach County’s approval of Minto Communities Florida’s planned 4,500- home, 3,800-acre Westlake project, clearing the way for its development. Minto wants to incorporate it as a city, the county’s 39th municipality. Plans call for 2.2 million square feet of commercial space.

BOCA RATON — Banker Richard Ohrn was indicted on a charge stemming from an alleged hoax in which he is accused of faking a disappearance at sea to evade litigation trouble. The U.S. Coast Guard says it spent $400,000 on the two-day air search.

DAVIE — Standard & Poor’s raised Nova Southeastern University’s credit rating two steps to A-, citing a stabilizing environment and other factors.

FORT LAUDERDALE — Thanks to settlements and payments from two major banks found civilly liable in the Scott Rothstein Ponzi scheme and thanks to seized asset sales, all the victims of the massive fraud have been fully repaid, the government says.

HOLLYWOOD — Boutique hotel Casa Pellegrino opened on North Ocean Drive.

JUPITER — A venture of Index Investment and Eastwind Development sold its 190-unit Dakota at Abacoa apartment project for $42 million to an affiliate of West Palm Beach-based Priderock Capital Partners.

PALM SPRINGS — JDR Development broke ground on the first Wawa convenience store in south Florida at the corner of Lake Worth Road and Congress Avenue. Wawa plans at least 50 stores over four years in south Florida.

PORT ST. LUCIE — The Legislature approved $6.8 million for the construction of the 120- bed Ardie R. Copas Veterans’ Nursing Home, the state’s seventh veterans nursing home.

RIVIERA BEACH — The city council agreed to a threeyear contract with Loggerhead Marina to operate the municipal marina.

TAMARAC — 13th Floor Homes completed the sellout of its 253- home Central Parc development. It’s begun sales at its 239- home Manor Parc next door. Homes in the developments started in the mid-$200,000s and upper $200,000s, respectively, a low price point for Broward.

VERO BEACH — Amid a slow year for general aviation aircraft sales, Piper Aircraft shipped 138 aircraft in 2015, down from 172 in 2014. Sales were down 22% to $118.4 million. Business jet sales increased globally, but Piper makes piston and turboprop planes.

WELLINGTON — Mark Bellisimo, CEO of Wellington Equestrian Partners, agreed to acquire the International Polo Club from the family trust of jailed founder John Goodman, who is serving a 16-year prison sentence for DUI manslaughter. The purchase includes club facilities and properties totaling 248 acres. Bellisimo’s group already owns Palm Beach International Equestrian Center and the Winter Equestrian Festival.

WEST PALM BEACH — The majority of city voters chose to exempt new and expanding businesses from city property taxes for 10 years. The exemptions will be issued case by case to businesses that create at least 10 local, full-time jobs.

Tags: Southeast

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