Behind the scenes work is underway on a multi-million dollar development in Port Canaveral, that some are comparing to Downtown Disney. Port leaders are hoping to attract more people from Central Florida to Brevard County.
“It’s going to be unique to any port in the country,” said Port Canaveral Commission Chairman Jerry Allender.
Sooner Investment and Collett are investing more than $70 million into the Port Canaveral area known as the Cove.
The first phase, 13 acres, will include restaurants, retail, entertainment and an upscale hotel, connecting the new cruise terminal 1 to Exploration Tower.
“The goal of the Cove is to appeal to local Brevard residents as well as the greater Central Florida community and allow them to have an amenity to come and visit the port,” said Matt Taylor, a consultant for the Cove Development. “But it’s also to serve as an amenity for cruise passengers who arrive here every day on ports of call and the ships.”
But port commissioners told the developers they have to walk a fine line. They’re concerned a large scale retail-restaurant complex could take cruise passengers and tourists away from existing Space Coast businesses.
“If we just think we’re going to take people from the restaurants in Cocoa Beach and bring them out here (to Port Canaveral), that can’t be what we’re doing, it’s got to be a tourist attraction,” said Port Commissioner Bruce Deardoff.
It’s a tall order, but developers are confident they won’t siphon off tourists, instead attracting more visitors to Brevard County.
“People will drive from throughout the region to spend a day that’s just really nice,” said Chris Challis, a developer for Sooner Investment and Collett. “You think St. Augustine, Winter Park, Downtown Disney, those places that provide a good experience and something for you to do, retail, restaurant selection, then folks will come.”
Streetscaping for the project could begin this fall, with construction on the actual complex expected to start in spring 2016.