‘The Cove’ At Port Canaveral, Past and Future
By Malcolm (Mac) McLouth // April 20, 2014
ABOVE VIDEO: To honor the past and celebrate the Space Coast’s continuing achievements, the Port Canaveral Welcome Center has been built seven stories above a lakefront Port site, highly visible for miles around.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Malcolm (Mac) McLouth offers his observations about the development and expansion at Port Canaveral. McLouth has a very unique perspective as, over the last 47 years, he has been the Executive Director/CEO of the Port, served as a Port Canaveral Commissioner for 32 years and was the Director Business Development.
He has spent more than half his life helping develop Port Canaveral and was the first Republican elected to the Port Authority. His first encounter with the Port was in 1966, while he was serving as a Boy Scout leader. He went on a weekend camping trip with his troup to Jetty Park, which had recently opened.
After becoming a commissioner in 1967, he proposed that the authority make a pitch to Central Florida’s brand new Walt Disney World as its “outlet to the sea” for both goods and people. That year, Holland America’s S/S Rotterdam had docked to embark passengers for a chartered cruise.
The first cruise ship to sail from the Port had been four years earlier when the S/S Yarmouth boarded 402 passengers for a sold-out cruise to Nassau over Labor Day weekend 1963. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE
PORT CANAVERAL EXPANSION PLANNING, EXECUTION CRITICAL
By Malcolm (Mac) McLouth
The need for a long ranged conceptual land use plan for a commercial development on the South side of the Port was recognized by the Port staff and authorized by the Commission in 1994.
A local A/E firm (BRPH) was selected and prepared an initial site development plan in 1995 that included a small boat canal dug in the uplands and proposed the site be named “the Cove.”
However, the follow-on engineering analysis of cost, traffic, parking and environmental criteria resulted in the elimination of the proposed canals but the name remained in The Cove Phase 1 Development bid documents.
In February 1996 a contract was signed for $2,363,000 with a local contractor to construct improvements to Glen Cheek Drive area including drainage, underground electric power lines, street lights, off street parking, sidewalks and landscaping.
Twelve months later in 1997 the work was completed and a grand opening “Splash Bash” ceremony was sponsored by the Port and the Cove restaurants located on Glen Cheek Blvd.
Rapid growth and tenant changes in the next four years prompted the Port Staff and Commission to revisit and expand the South Side commercial site planning effort.
The now Phase 2 Plan was expanded to include the Marina area, the 26-acre Banana River land, Columbia Road complex, Mullet Drive/Scallop Drive and the Cove site’s. At the end of 2001, a master land planning contract was awarded to a consulting association headed by Wilbur Smith & Associates.
Starting in January 2002, the consultant reached out to the Community with interviews to receive feedback and suggestions. Following was a series of alternative development schemes presented by the consultant to the Commission for their comments. A final report was submitted to the Port in October 2002.
In the next five years, considerable interest was expressed by private commercial developers in the Cove and the 26-acre Banana River site was all but put on hold in 2008 with the onset of a depressed national economy.
Concurrently the Ports trade area, (East-Central Florida), was also hit economically by the cancellation of the Space Shuttle launch program at KSC. Fortunately, Port Canaveral’s cruise trade continued to grow in this time period particularly in “Port of Call” stops.
This in turn generated Staff and Commission interest in 2010 to jump-start development in The Cove again.
Creating a tight schedule was the up-coming AAPA convention and Florida‘s 500 year discovery anniversary three short years away. In the following two years the Port updated the South Side master plan.
In response to a sharpened Community awareness as to the value of Port Canaveral, the consultants were tasked to include extensive public exposure and input into the planning process.
The next step taken by the Port was the hiring of an architect to design a Welcome Center included in the now revised Cove Site Plan. Subsequently a seven-story Welcome Center was constructed in a short one year period and opened in October 2013.
Included in this now third Cove Plan was the incorporation of the Florida Power fuel tank lease area that was terminated and returned to the Port in 2012. Included also was the construction of an East-West parallel road between George King Boulevard and Glen Cheek Drive, plus realignment of the Dave Nisbet Drive Cove entrance road, all completed in early 2014.
In the past few months the Port Commission has closed Freddie Patrick Park, is in the process of moving the boat ramp to the Jetty Park area and is constructing a new mega cruise terminal on the vacated site.
This in turn will cause the amphitheater site to be moved to the west. The Port and the City of Cape Canaveral are also considering extending Columbia Road to the South past our fire station into their industrial park.
All these changes will impact traffic flow in the Cove area and may require its boundary modification.
The Port is now in the process of selecting a master development firm that is expected to be completed this summer. One year later, in mid-2015, the Port Commission will be presented with a comprehensive development program for The Cove.
The consultant would be expected to include a proposed Cove site zoning plan, a development time schedule, lease terms and return on investment considerations.
Parking needs, traffic flows and safety will likewise be considerations in the final report. Specific potential tenants and/or leases will also be identified. Throughout the consultant’s scheduled year-long study, ample opportunity for public input is proposed.
As the development process moves forward, decisions made become more difficult and expensive to change. For this reason it will be important to consider local Port District residents and the cruise industry’s tastes and needs in the limited Cove designated land available.
Of utmost importance will be to task the Port’s traffic engineering consultants as independent reviewers of the Master Developers recommendations to assure the Port that hotels and attractions locations do not create Cove area traffic problems.