The developer says Hobe Sound Station will bring “a stylish retail center with the feel of Worth Avenue” to a desolate section of U.S. 1.
But several locals in this laid back Martin County area say they like their neighborhood businesses just fine.
“There’s no fun, no energy, no imagination along this stretch of U.S. 1. People leapfrog Hobe Sound. They go north to Stuart or south to Jupiter,” said John Doyle, who is building the $7 million retail/office center. Crawdaddys N’awlins Grill & Bar and Lynora’s restaurants are scheduled to open when construction is finished early next year about one mile north of Bridge Road on the east side of U.S. 1.
About four dozen condos — the tallest would be 40 feet — with prices starting at about $600,000 are planned. So are a neighborhood market with a gas station and a retail/office building. An Aldi’s grocery store may go in on the other side of U.S. 1, on the site of the former Horsefeathers bar.
Not everybody in Hobe Sound, an unincorporated area of about 15,000 residents north of Tequesta, is excited about the Mizner-style Hobe Sound Station. The 40,000-square-foot center is the first major development along U.S. 1 since the Publix Plaza was built about 15 years ago.
“Hobe Sound doesn’t want to be Palm Beach. We don’t want to turn into another Abacoa. We’re a very seasonal, quiet community. This project has Hobe Sound residents very nervous,” said Harold Jenkins, a lifelong Hobe Sound resident, owner of a local landscape business and Martin County commissioner who represents the Hobe Sound and the Jupiter Island area.
Martin County, which has about 160,000 residents — about one-tenth of Palm Beach County — has a well-earned reputation of being a high hurdle for developers.
Hobe Sound Station is leaping that hurdle and could start of a flurry of unwelcome growth, said Jenkins.
Supporters of the project disagree.
They say Hobe Sound Station is a planned neighborhood that will fill commercial space along a desolate urban corridor. That four-mile stretch on U.S. 1 from Bridge Road north to Osprey Street has a Winn-Dixie plaza, a dog grooming store, a vaping shop, a recreational vehicle dealership, a couple of coffee shops, restaurants, auto parts stores and a nursing home.
The Palms Inn Hotel and adjacent restaurant closed three years ago. The building is vacant.
What that urban corridor does not have are residences with nearby upscale places to shop, dine, window shop or have a beverage.
That’s the niche Hobe Sound Station will fill, said Doyle.
“(Hobe Sound Station) is not ringing the dinner bell for uncontrolled growth. We are the beneficiary of controlled growth between Jupiter and Stuart. We want to continue that controlled growth,” said Doyle, who also built The Medalist and Old Cypress Village luxury residential communities on U.S. 1 in Hobe Sound. Doyle lives in the Medalist.
Businesses and families will be attracted to a walkable community, said Angela Hoffman, the executive director of the Hobe Sound Chamber of Commerce.
“Hobe Sound Station is not urban sprawl. It’s not tall buildings. It’s a good start to attract more infill projects to enhance our community,” said Hoffman.
Harry MacArthur, whose family has owned Harry and the Natives restaurant on U.S. 1 and Bridge Road for 65 years, doesn’t buy it.
“Martin County has fought to keep things small. We like it that way,” said MacArthur, whose wood-paneled restaurant just north of Bridge Road offers live music, breakfast and pig roasts. Trinkets made by local artists are for sale at the door.
Others counter that new construction will pump dollars into the local economy.
Vic Pepitone, the owner of nearby Hobe Sound Produce on U.S. 1, agrees that Hobe Sound residents don’t want major development. But Pepitone also wants more customers to buy his seafood, vegetables, fruits and boiled peanuts.
“More people means more business,” Pepitone said.
The tough part, says John Martin, who sells bait in Reel Life Bait & Tackle across U.S. 1 from Hobe Sound Station, is keeping a balance.
Locals are not looking for bigger restaurants and businesses. They like the fact that Jonathan Dickinson State Park separates them from the hustle and bustle of Palm Beach County, said Martin.
“Yeah, we need the economic boost. But growth isn’t something locals are used to,” said Martin, who moved to Hobe Sound in 1985 from West Palm Beach for a calmer lifestyle.
Non-local restaurants will have a tough time attracting locals, said Sam Lenz, a longtime Hobe Sound area resident who owns Fog E Vapor vaping shop on U.S. 1.
“People around here like local places where they know the owners, like Harry’s,” Lenz said, referring to Harry and the Natives restaurant. “It’s tough to break into the in crowd in Hobe Sound.”
The next step for Hobe Sound Station will be winning approval for the Aldi’s, the neighborhood market with gas station and the 46 condominiums.
It won’t be easy, said Harold Jenkins, the Martin County commissioner who represents Hobe Sound.
“Martin County is ruled by extremes. People are either totally against development, or they are totally in favor of it. When (Doyle) makes those other proposals, there will be a lot of opposition,” said Jenkins.
HOBE SOUND STATION: IN THE WORKS
* Approved: 15,000-square-foot area planned to open early 2018. Crawdaddy’s N’awlins Grill & Bar and Lynora’s expected to open.
* Submitted for approval: 6,000-square-foot building neighborhood market with gas station adjacent to restaurant building
* Planned: 18,000-square-foot commercial/retail office planned adjacent to restaurant building
* Planned: 46 condominiums, gated community to be called The Preserve. The two- and three-bedroom units will start at about $600,000.
* Planned: Aldi’s grocery store on the other side of U.S. 1, at former site of Horsefeathers bar.