Port St. Lucie, a disparate series of residential developments and strip malls, had little to boast beyond its proximity to a nuclear plant and its fame as the spring training home of the New York Mets. Then Lily Zhong came to town, plunked down $500,000 for vacant land and promised to finally build a real downtown.
She produced renderings, showing modern, multistory buildings rising along wide, pedestrian-friendly streets, where people would shop, do business, dine out and attend special events, said Gregory Oravec, mayor of the city of 174,000. Home to thousands of retirees, Port St. Lucie sorely needed a gathering spot to bind the community, he said.
“The big idea was to create a sense of place, to put a ‘there’ there,” he said.