Fear, they say, is one heck of a motivator. Without an extremely common fear—forged amid extremely uncommon circumstances—the motivation to create what’s now a budding downtown Fort Pierce might not have materialized.
Born in Coral Gables and raised in Key Largo, 49-year-old Gus Gutierrez—who’s worked on redevelopment projects across South Florida—established four locations around the world for his businesses in construction and development, and arts and culture. He thought nothing of shuttling between Miami, New York, France and Italy. Until Sept. 11, 2001.
“I got scared and thought I would never get on a plane again,” he remembers. “[My partner and I] got in a car, wanting to find a place we could drive to, without getting on a plane, that felt very different than Miami Beach.”
The journey led them along Indian River Drive and eventually to Fort Pierce.
Now, thanks to the developer’s vision, creativity and expertise, the Galleria of Pierce Harbor—once vacant and in disrepair—hosts two restaurants with a third on the way and combined seating for 400. Best of all, Rooster in the Garden and Braford Steakhouse will feature the storied Adams Ranch Natural Beef.
With the popularity of the farm-to-table trend in dining, the Galleria has partnered with Adams Ranch, which belongs to one of Fort Pierce’s founding families.
Yes. Basically, they’ll be opening up their house with this restaurant, serving organic, grass-fed cows in a world-renowned steakhouse—right down the road from their ranch. Plus, chef Christopher Bireley of Osceola Bistro in Vero is the chef-owner at Rooster in the Garden.
How did you get together with the Adams family?
They heard about me, and I heard about them. We met, started conversations. I wanted local, historically invested community leaders to reinvest into our beautiful historic downtown Fort Pierce, and to work together to revitalize the historic waterfront downtown—which is some of the most beautiful, crystal-clear water around—with restaurants, entertainment, art and culture.
Are you working on any other redevelopment projects?
We’re working on a bed and breakfast overseeing the river. We’re going to be doing professional lofts in one of the historic buildings that will have professional buildings with a communal coffeehouse downstairs and professional offices upstairs. And we’re working on an artisan resident house project, bringing in artists from all over the world to collaborate and work in warehouse studios in the Peacock Art District. We will be bringing in a wine-and-cheese store, and a vibrant event space for all ages to enjoy across the street from the Sunrise Theater.
What else do you envision for the Galleria?
We’re trying to find small, independent, mom-and-pop retail spaces and artisans with curated boutique stores.
Are you excited by the progress of downtown’s revitalization?
Of course, it’s never fast enough, but in the real world I’m so excited and happy to see the progress and possibilities of downtown Fort Pierce. The city’s investment of the $60 million marina; $12 million live theater, continued investment in sidewalks—parks, beaches; it’s encouraging and exciting.