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Village Beach Market still interested in store in Orchid


Orchid officials haven’t seriously considered longtime Vero Beach businessman Ken Puttick’s recent suggestion that the town buy his vacant, commercially zoned, 7-acre parcel of land on the north side of State Road 510, immediately west of Jungle Trail.

But they probably will – and soon.

In fact, Orchid Mayor Hal Ofstie predicted the topic will be raised at the Town Council’s April 5 meeting.

“We haven’t ever discussed it as a council, so, in terms of anything official having transpired, the answer is no,” Ofstie said last week, nearly a month after Publix withdrew its proposal to build a supermarket-anchored shopping center on the property in the face of resident objections.

“Some people have mentioned it, just in casual conversation, and within the community you can almost hear people’s brains churning on what to do,” he continued.

“So I suspect we’ll probably talk about some of the comments we’re hearing from the community, maybe at our next meeting.

“But we haven’t heard from Ken, and there’s really nothing happening at this point.”

Puttick, who purchased the property for $3.5 million in 2006 and placed its current value in excess of $6 million, said earlier this month that he planned to talk to Ofstie to discuss the possibility of the town buying the parcel for a “reasonable” price.

However, Puttick said he “put that on hold” while he waits to see if he receives any other offers.

“We’ve had a couple of inquiries since Publix backed out, but nothing solid,” said  Puttick, whose contract with the Florida-based supermarket company was contingent on its plans being approved by the Orchid Town Council – something that was unlikely to happen after an Orchid Island Community Association survey revealed 87 percent of homeowners opposed the proposal.

“We’re going to let things play out for a while and see what else comes up before we try to do something,” he added. “As I’ve said, I’m open to any proposal that has a chance of getting approved by the town.”

Jason Keen, chief operating officer of the Village Beach Market, has publicly expressed interest in buying the property and putting a store there.

However, Puttick said he hasn’t heard from the Village Beach Market since his realtor contacted Keen last month.

Keen, though, said he’s still interested in putting a store on Puttick’s property but has been distracted by a “family health concern” he preferred to not disclose.

“We’ve had something come up and we’re dealing with that right now, so we’re not able to put the time and effort into that project,” Keen said last weekend. “That’s why I haven’t called Mr. Puttick back.

“We approached them the week before Publix pulled out, but they said they couldn’t talk to us because they had a contract,” he added. “But are we still interested? Yes. Are we still working on it? Yes.

“We’re still trying to find the right partners we need to make this work and, now that Publix is out of the picture, we’re still trying to make sure our plans fit with what the people in the town want.”

The town didn’t want Publix, but Keen said he believes he can develop the property in accordance with the town code.

He mentioned a 6,000-square-foot Village Beach Market accompanied by smaller retail businesses.

“Every week, we have people asking us about it, and we have hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars invested in exploring this,” Keen said. “The interest is there.”