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Port St. Joe new downtown on the water

Discussion in 'Real Estate' started by kurt, Nov 21, 2005.

  1. kurt

    kurt Admin Staff Member

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    11/02/05

    PORT ST. JOE CITY COMMISSION APPROVES ZONING FOR SITE OF FORMER PAPER MILL


    City Action Marks Important Milestone in Plan to Redevelop the Port St. Joe Mill Site

    The St. Joe Company (NYSE: JOE) Plan Includes Approximately 600 Residential Units on 166 Acres of Waterfront in Downtown Port St. Joe, Florida


    Port St. Joe, Florida ? (November 2, 2005) ? Last night, the city commission of Port St. Joe, Florida adopted a zoning ordinance allowing for a mix of residential and commercial uses on 166 acres formerly occupied by the Port St. Joe paper mill. The St. Joe Company (NYSE: JOE) owns 40 acres of the site while the remaining 126 acres is owned by a joint venture between JOE and Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation (NASDAQ: SSCC).​

    The city commission also approved the annexation of the new phase of JOE?s WindMark Beach, a beachfront resort destination with 1,662 residential units on 2,020 acres, into the city of Port St. Joe.

    The paper mill site redevelopment is currently being planned for approximately 600 residential units, mostly multifamily units on the bay front. The plan also includes 350,000 square feet of retail space being designed as a civic gathering place and entertainment district for Port St. Joe. The plan provides for a public waterfront on the St. Josephs Bay. An additional 150,000 square feet of office space is designated to house the growing need for professional services. Plans also call for a 150-room hotel and 500 wet and dry boat slips. A new Town Hall with city government offices is also provided for in the plan.

    ?This is an historic day for Port St. Joe, the city from which we take our name,? said Peter S. Rummell, chairman and CEO of JOE. ?For the better part of fifty years, this town was the heart and soul of The St. Joe Company. We are very proud to have the opportunity to work with Port St. Joe's community leaders toward revitalizing this town. Port St. Joe has tremendous character. Our goal with the mill site has always been to capture that character in a distinctive place. Working with the community, we have developed a plan that preserves Port St. Joe's essential character while adding exciting new elements that will make this an even better place to call home.?


    ?The people of this community are to be applauded for their vision and their commitment to making Port St. Joe one of the best communities on the gulf coast,? said Frank Pate, Jr., mayor of the City of Port St. Joe. ?The plan that has been approved brings new retail and living options to Port St. Joe, creates wonderful new public spaces for all to share and enjoy, and most importantly, provides vital links between the new development and historic Port St. Joe. Thanks to the outstanding public input we received during the planning process, this is one of the best downtown revitalization plans we've ever seen. And when this project is complete, Port St. Joe will be an even better place to live, work and raise a family.?

    ?Port St. Joe has had a colorful past,? said John Reeves, Port St. Joe city commissioner. ?Over the past 200 years a resilient Port St. Joe has risen and fallen several times. It was the site of the first Florida Constitutional Convention. But its past pales when compared to its future. Now, Port St. Joe is on the rise again.?

    The demolition and clean-up of the paper mill and site was completed last year. The paper mill had started operations in 1938 and was closed permanently in 1999.

    A planning team, including representatives of the City of Port St. Joe, the Port St. Joe Port Authority, JOE and Smurfit-Stone held a number of public meetings over a two-year period to discuss and study redevelopment options for the entire Port St. Joe waterfront area, including the former mill site. In early 2004, JOE and Smurfit-Stone formed a joint venture to develop the former paper mill site. The venture then acquired the 126-acre mill site formerly owned by Smurfit-Stone.
     
  2. iwishiwasthere

    iwishiwasthere Beach Fanatic

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    Am I the only person that is saddened by this development? It seems as if all natural space is being destoyed for profit.
     
  3. kurt

    kurt Admin Staff Member

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    In this instance the development is on the site of the old mill which was a real blight and was most likely contaminated.
     
  4. Bob

    Bob SoWal Insider

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    Kurt is right! Go look at the "Animals" LP cover by Pink Floyd and you'll get the idea of the eyesore to be removed. Maybe one of the new streets could be called DioxinTrace.
     
  5. Cil

    Cil Beach Fanatic

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    lol Bob
    I've seen some of the plans (including the new marina) and they look very nice. Certainly an improvement on the old mill site.
    As Mr. Reeves said, Port St Joe is on the rise again.
     
  6. Smiling JOe

    Smiling JOe SoWal Expert

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    To give you guys some perspective, St Joe owns about 18,000 acres in Walton Co. You have seen the infrastructure which they have put into WaterColor, and are probably somewhat aware of what they have in store for WaterSound and WaterSound North.

    In Gulf Co, home of St Joe, the town, the former papermill, and St Joe's namesake, St Joe owns somewhere around 200,000 acres. The prices of land in that area has already adjusted for the coming infrastructure and developments, so there should not be a huge bump in prices over the next ten years. For all of you who think SoWal has changed greatly due to St Joe, I ask you to look at the coming changes in Gulf Co. over the next ten years. St Joe pretty much owns all County Officials and they should not have many problems getting developments passed due to St Joe being the cause for these people to make substantial amounts of money. That property has been extremely rural, but look out Sista, all of that is about to change.
     
  7. Cork On the Ocean

    Cork On the Ocean directionally challenged

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    I drive past there every time I go to Tampa and even considered buying property in the area when they first started dismantling the plant but I can't get the Arizona chemical company eyesore across the street out of my mind. I would think that JOE has addressed that because I can imagine development of the site without addressing Arizona. Does anybody what's going on with the chemical plant?
     
  8. beachmouse

    beachmouse Beach Fanatic

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    The old mill site was naaas-ty! Paper mills always are. I'm glad that someone is going to repurpose the old site, but I couldn't see buying a home there because I'd be concerned whether they've really cleaned up the site like it needs to be.
     
  9. Cil

    Cil Beach Fanatic

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    St. Joe's Master Plan

    Transforming a Coastal Community (Written by Jody Sarno for Waterfront Living)

    Since 1998 when "the Mill" closed, folks in Port St. Joe have wondered what would happen to the piece of waterfront property where so many worked for so long. If St. Joe Company's vision becomes reality, that stretch of land will be part of a total transformation for the city of Port St. Joe.

    Port St. Joe will experience a metamorphosis from a historically rich, sleepy coastal community, which has struggled to establish and maintain a solid and sustainable economic model, to a warm and inviting community of homes and office and retail space welcoming home visitors and property owners to a waterfront village with a familiar flair. Complete with a 150-bed hotel overlooking the bay, the newly crafted Port St. Joe mixed-use community plans to co-mingle residential, retail, and government facilities surrounded by green space. No detail has been overlooked including a new 50-wet-slip and 300-dry-slip marina, an open plaza on the water, and even a farmers' market.

    Metamorphoses are not new to the St. Joe Company, having recently gone through one themselves. Once a timber company, now a developer of resort property, JOE is about to add Port St. Joe to its list of impressive properties. The model for success has been accomplished in other coastal communities such as Watercolor but the "master plan" for Port St. Joe is far more appropriate for this region and the landscape offered by the city that boosts a heritage including being the site of the signing of the Florida Constitution. In fact as you look at the renderings, which line the walls of the office of St. Joe's Vice President of Strategy, John Hendry, your mind quickly imagines a Southern town complete with a town square blended with a South Florida Harbor Club community. Unlike the more commercial appeal of Destin, the community will have the upscale feel of Naples with its four-story brownstone type condominiums lining the waterfront, allowing anyone to stroll along the water's edge parkways and boardwalks.
    "Port St. Joe will be the exact antithesis of Panama City and Destin," boasted Hendry when asked to offer a comparison.

    Today Highway 98 traffic often ignores the thirty-five mile an hour speed limit and breezes through town, with its four traffic lanes and two traffic lights. The newly transformed Port St. Joe might cause the traffic to slow when its four lanes are turned into a tree lined, grassy median passageway through a picture perfect haven for locals and visitors alike. A once rich retail road, Reid Avenue, has over time turned into commercial office space cluttered with real estate offices, lawyers, and far too many vacant lots and offices. Retail growth over the past three years has been concentrated in the nearby Port City Shopping Center, complete with "The Pig" a local nickname for the Piggly Wiggly where most everyone in the community shops for groceries. Phase One of the master plan allows the city's leaders to reestablish a town center approach tying together Reid Avenue and the Shopping Center with a mixed-use community of homes, retail, and office space nearer the water and the growth that St. Joe is constructing in Windmark Beach. The new town-center located at First and Reid Avenue. is envisioned to be at the pulse of the city with adjacent office space to accommodate professional services. A new West Reid Avenue has already been planned to allow for future retail growth beyond that offered within the existing downtown area.

    A waterfront walkway and a water taxi would allow anyone wishing to leave their Windmark home or vacation rental in search of food, entertainment, or a shopping excursion a chance to meander into Port St. Joe and do so with a scenic backdrop second to none. Long known for some of the most breathtaking sunsets in Northwest Florida, the Port St. Joe of the future is scheduled to include a gorgeous pavilion on the water complete with an open-air Ampi-theatre for evening concerts and festivities. Green space is planned around this gathering place so one might picnic on the green while enjoying a local cultural or community event.

    While the community will become the infrastructure for the St Joe Town and Resort Community, it will also allow the business community and residential homes to coexist with the much needed shopping and dinning establishments to support an active tourist-driven economy. John Hendry embellished on the vision that includes a healthy Port St. Joe business community where walking down Reid Avenue and stopping for a bite of lunch in one of the many bistro cafes, or grabbing a quick to-go and relaxing on the green before returning to the office or city hall is a part of everyday life.

    Retail space and retail businesses to fill that space are a part of the vision as well. A coastal community that thrives on vacationing visitors and resort-style second home traffic must have the amenities to support the needs and desires of its patrons. The inclusion of retail establishments along Reid Avenue and in the newly created West Reid Avenue will allow Port St. Joe to establish itself as a shopping district, add to the tax base of the town and furnish much needed jobs for the community. Each retail establishment and restaurant will require a manager, clerks, and wait staff. Resort communities are often thought of as low paying job providers. That might have been the case a decade ago, but in today's market, hotel management, chefs, and entrepreneurs make respectable wages in resort communities, and other employees are paid reasonably as well. The new vision is projected to add nearly $2.3 million to the existing $1million dollar tax base yearly. That should and does please those in charge of the city coffers.

    Frank Pate, mayor of Port St. Joe for nearly 32 years says, "The idea of the transformation is a wonderful thing, providing it is family oriented, dose not allow high rises, and offers things for the locals. Reid Avenue needs to be more than a 9 to 5 street." The newly hired City Manager, Lee Vincent adds, "Maintaining our heritage while moving into the future is a positive thing for everyone." Both agree some compromises will need to be made, but that the concept of the new city is a "great start": A start that St Joe Company has projected will take a five-year time frame to complete.

    However, not everyone shares this level of enthusiasm. Many locals, some of whom have been in this area for generations and others who have only recently relocated here would rather the area be left alone. A fear of losing the natural beauty and the quiet, friendly small town atmosphere that is an integral part of life in Port St. Joe is most likely the driving force behind this trepidation. Another group that may not see eye-to-eye with JOE is the local Port Authority. The land where the Mill once operated is the location targeted by this group to open the Port. JOE has offered an alternative to this plan by offering to sell a prime piece of land just north of the old mill site to the Port Authority. While both parties are optimistic an arrangement can be reached that will result in a working port for Port St. Joe, the lines have been drawn and the stakes are high. The new port location will take time and money to make ready while the existing bulkhead is essentially ready to go, once approved. Tommy Pitts, Executive Director of the Port Authority stated, "The community leaders will make the decision on how, when, and ultimately, where to move forward."

    Many hurdles must be cleared before the vision for Port St. Joe can become a reality. Affordable housing for the projected 900 new jobs created by the resort community development is only one of these hurdles. Large-scale community land trusts may be one way to handle this issue, but only time will tell. Upper-income second homeowners require services, and resort visitors want to shop, eat and play well into the evenings and throughout the weekend. This culture and lifestyle do not exist today and may be harder than first thought to accomplish. No one can simply flip a switch and make this happen in a predominately Baptist working-class Southern segregated town. Many of the vacation homeowners and even some of the visitors plan to retire here, providing a suitable healthcare facility exist. All of the working professionals resulting from such a facility will demand an advanced education system and a state-of-the-art daycare for their children and grandchildren. The once small town city leaders will be challenged with big business issues as their budgets, responsibilities, and their accountability grow in scope.

    No matter what the challenges in store, a brief review of the success of JOE, with its resort communities, leaves little doubt as to the outcome of this master plan. Whether it takes 5 or 15 years, Port St. Joe will become all that JOE has envisioned. A once sleepy mill town will soon have homes scattered all along the waterfront, which will allow residents to live in a community where a car might actually be an optional or merely an occasional necessity, more like a European village where cars are garaged and walking is the preferred method of transportation. With rising gasoline prices and Americans' need for more exercise, this lifestyle change might be just what the doctor ordered and more importantly, just what the demanding baby-boomer is seeking. After all, the ten million boomers who will enter the market through 2014 are in search of a higher quality of life and seem to favor Florida, and JOE is pulling out all the stops to deliver just what they are looking for.

    St Joe Company has many projects on the books. One nearby is a "Beach Club" located in Mexico Beach. John Hendry was quick to point out that this project is still in preliminary stages but it is clear JOE considers Mexico Beach a precious resource with its sugar-white sand and emerald blue-green waters. The plans for these club-type facilities for St. Joe Company residents, no matter where they might reside, is about a year away once begun.

    We will further explore the Master Plan of JOE in Franklin and other counties in future issues of Waterfront Living. For now we offer for your review the new Port St. Joe, according to JOE. At last the questions about the old Mill site have been answered. The site overlooking one of nature's great wonders, St. Joseph Bay, once home to a paper mill, may soon be home to a new waterfront community that will be the crowning jewel to Florida's once Forgotten Coast.



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  10. kurt

    kurt Admin Staff Member

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    Wow talk about a transformation. I used to visit the town on business and saw it just after the mill closed. There were some dirt poor folks there. I hope everyone benefits.
     
  11. Philip_Atlanta

    Philip_Atlanta Beach Lover

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    I'd be interested to know this as well.. anyone? Quite the eyesore, plus the aroma.. :)
     
  12. Cil

    Cil Beach Fanatic

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    Yeah, it is hideous and it stinks to high heaven.
    We all know that chemicals are necessary and can be very beneficial yada yada yada but of course most people do not want that kind of thing right there in front of their nose.
    I don't see it remaining forever, but have no idea how or when Arizona would be persuaded to relocate.
     

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