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DeSantis announces $3.5 million state infrastructure grant to expand Tradition development

By Max Chesnes, Cheryl Smith, Ed Killer; Treasure Coast Newspapers

Port St. Lucie will receive a $3.5 million state grant to boost economic development in Tradition, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced during a news conference here Friday.

The infrastructure money will help expand commercial development in Southern Grove, a 3,605-acre area west of Interstate 95 and north of Becker Road. 

Specifically, the funds will be used to build the 4,600-foot-long Anthony F. Sansone Sr. Boulevard in Legacy Distribution Park. The boulevard is the first step in accessing 120 acres of industrial land that can house 2 million square feet of warehouse distribution space. Road construction will cost $7 million and could create 1,800 jobs, officials said. 

Legacy Distribution Park will contain 10 million-square-feet of businesses, including:

  • FedEx, which is in the process of building a 245,000-square-foot distribution center.
  • Cheney Brothers, which is planning a 430,000-square-foot distribution center.
  • Project Apron and Project Green, with a combined total of 620,000 square feet of space. No more information was immediately available about those projects. 

The expansion could bring 5,000 direct and indirect jobs to the area, DeSantis said. The entire "jobs corridor" could generate 16,000 jobs, "some of them high-paying," Port St. Lucie Vice Mayor Shannon Martin said.

"Southern Grove is one of Florida's most unique opportunities for large-scale manufacturing, logistics and retail development," Martin said. "It has the largest swath of development-ready vacant land in all of South Florida.”

The land includes 4 miles fronting I-95, with interchanges at Tradition Parkway and Becker Road, she said. 

Tradition Center for Commerce, in northern Southern Grove, already houses the TAMCO manufacturing plant, where the governor held his news conference. There's also a Cleveland Clinic hospitalKeiser UniversityFlorida Atlantic University and South Florida Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine. 

Mattamy Homes, the largest privately owned homebuilder in North America, bought 2,780 acres in Tradition in 2018, with plans for 8,500 single-family homes and and 150 acres of commercial development.

The money for the boulevard will come from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity's Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, a $74 million pot created in 2017.

"The grants will assist communities in funding workforce training and public infrastructure projects to support growth and employment in Florida," its website says.

In 2018, the city received a $3 million grant from the same fund to build Tom Mackie Boulevard and Trade Center Drive in Tradition. The roadways gave City Electric Supply access to 38 acres to build the 411,000-square-foot TAMCO manufacturing facility. 

The facility retained 210 jobs and will create an additional 50 high-wage manufacturing jobs, Martin told TCPalm. 

"We think St. Lucie is an important part of Florida," the governor said, adding the state also gave St. Lucie County a $5.6 million Community Development Block Grant earlier this year.

"It's hugely important, especially as we're coming out of COVID," said Dane Eagle, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. "We look forward to building." 

More job growth coming to PSL 

It’s been a big week for future job growth in Port St. Lucie. Friday’s announcement follows news from a day earlier that a 1.1 million-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center will bring 500 full-time jobs to the area. 

Construction of the facility, on 110 acres east of Interstate 95 and south of Midway Road at Midway Business Park, is expected to be done by late summer or early fall 2022.  

A 16-bed hospice facility could also be coming to Tradition by 2022.

VITAS Healthcare, the largest hospice provider in the nation and a subsidiary of ChemMed Corp., plans to buy roughly four vacant acres from Mattamy Homes, according to Tony Palumbo, vice president of land acquisition and development for the developer.

It would cost roughly $9.6 million to develop the facility,  according to the state Agency for Health Care Administration.

The Cheney Brothers distribution center is a partnership among the city, St. Lucie County and Sansone Group, a St. Louis developer for whom the new boulevard will be named. 

The Cheney Brothers project will create 380 jobs paying 35% more than St. Lucie County’s average wage of over $55,000 annually with benefits. Annual payroll is estimated to be $20.9 million, according to the Economic Development Council. 

DeSantis back on the Treasure Coast 

DeSantis visited the Treasure Coast about two weeks ago to sign House Bill 3 into law at Indian River State College's Miley Library in Fort Pierce. 

That bill, known as the New Worlds Reading Initiative, will help children in kindergarten through fifth grade improve their reading skills. It was introduced by state Rep. Dana Trabulsy, R-Fort Pierce, and passed in this year's session of the Legislature.

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