Wavegarden’s $595 million work could begin in late 2022; first phase approved

FORT PIERCE — Work could begin here by the end of the year on one of the city’s most anticipated projects, the largest surf park in the world.

The city commission on Tuesday unanimously gave initial approval for the first phase of the Wavegarden, which is part of the 200-acre Willow Lakes Resort Village community at 10050 W. Midway Road.

A final vote is expected next month, according to city officials.

“This is just one critical project in the city of Fort Pierce,” Commissioner Jeremiah Johnson said. “…There will be a tourism component which will have an immediate and positive impact on the whole of the Treasure Coast.”

$595M project: surf center and village of 800 homes, thousands of jobs could come to Fort Pierce

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Phase 1A of the $595 million project would include:

  • A surf simulation park
  • 28 vacation rentals
  • A 9,882 square foot maintenance building
  • 160-190 parking spaces

51,835 square foot entertainment and retail center designed to look like a wave, may have space for surf and water sports shops, changing rooms, surf school, food outlets and drinks, a brasserie, an outdoor terrace with a bar and an amphitheater, according to city documents.

The 51,835 square foot hub is expected to be used for surf and water sports shops, staff offices, storage, changing rooms, surf school, food and beverage, a brasserie, an outdoor terrace with a bar and an amphitheater, according to documents.

Construction of the first phase, including infrastructure, is expected to take 18 months and cost about $60 million, said Willow Lakes director Chad Labonte.

The next phase is expected to include two hotels and more retail space, according to city documents.

Commissioners hailed the project, pointing out that the state’s only surf park would be in their own backyard, creating thousands of jobs and generating millions in tax revenue and tourism dollars.

“I have always said that one of my goals is to give people who reside in St. Lucie County and Fort Pierce the opportunity to transition from employment to career,” the newly elected commissioner said. Arnold Gaines. “And a project like this gives them that chance.”

Willow Lakes is expected to create about 3,400 construction jobs and nearly 1,900 permanent jobs each year, according to an analysis by the St. Lucie County Economic Development Board.

The surf center itself, “Surfworks Resorts,” spans 9½ acres and could have an annual economic impact of $15.6 million per year, according to the report.

Project overview

The development features a huge pool-like area that creates up to 1,000 waves per hour and can accommodate around 100 surfers at a time, according to a promotional video. The waves come in a variety of shapes and for a range of surfer expertise.

In total, the project would include 600 hotel rooms; 150 townhouses; 150 single-family homes; 700 multi-family houses; and 650,000 square feet of retail space, which could include offices, a mall, entertainment, restaurants, a convenience store and a pharmacy, records show.

The proposal also includes plans for a TopGolf entertainment venue, climbing wall and cliff diving area.

The site plan review submitted to Fort Pierce included this image of the Wavegarden surf park at the proposed Willow Lakes development on Midway Road.

18 years of preparation

Developers have owned the land since 2004, but the Great Depression delayed plans.

It changed men September 2020 when Fort Pierce city commissioners unanimously approved the first set of sweeping zoning changes to pave the way for the project west of Interstate 95.

“The landowner has been here for a long time as I recall, waiting to bring this property into some kind of development, and we’re there tonight,” Johnson said. “It’s very exciting. There are a lot of opportunities here and a good progressive approach.”

Garden of the waves has surf parks in Brazil, Switzerland, South Korea, Australia, England and Wales, according to its website. Four more are under construction in California, Brazil, Scotland and Australia. It also has more than 46 projects in development on five continents.

In July, there were 19 public wave pools around the world, according to Wave Pool magazine.

Olivia McKelvey is TCPalm’s watchdog reporter for St. Lucie County. You can reach her at [email protected], 772-521-4380 and on Twitter @olivia_mckelvey.

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