Port Everglades officials plan to demolish all the warehouses in Foreign Trade Zone No. 25.They'll raze this 16-acre site and rebuild it.
Port Everglades officials plan to demolish all the warehouses in Foreign Trade Zone No. 25.They’ll raze this 16-acre site and rebuild it. (Melanie Bell)

Port Everglades officials will seek a development team to plan to rebuild the Broward County port’s foreign trade zone on 16.5 acres on the west side of port property.

Foreign Trade Zone No. 25, the state’s first site to offer tenants delayed or reduced duty on foreign merchandise, is 38 years old.

But the port needs its valuable land near the water to lengthen a turning basin and make room for an expected influx of post-Panamax ships expected after Panama Canal expansion scheduled for completion next year.

But instead of moving the old warehouses, Port Everglades chief executive Steve Cernak said the plan is to develop a new project with higher ceilings, modern amenities, greater efficiencies and a smaller footprint.

“We don’t waste any space,” said Ellen Kennedy, assistant director of communications at the port. “Land is at a premium at the port, especially waterfront. We try to use every piece of land there is.”

The foreign trade zone’s relocation will help add about 1,500 linear feet for ships and cranes along with a project that will expand a berth west through 8.5 acres of mangroves in an environmental mitigation program.

“The FTZ doesn’t need to be on the water,” Kennedy said. “It can be anywhere, so we’re moving it further inland. We change the land use all the time here to do whatever works for the good of the port community.”

The zone ranks second in the nation for exports and creates about 500 direct jobs. It occupies 353,649 square feet of warehouse space in the southern part of the port.

The zone handled about $9.3 billion worth of merchandise, including car parts, petroleum products and fragrances in 2013 from countries like Venezuela, France, China, the United Kingdom and Taiwan.

There’s no construction timeline yet, but a request to issue letters of interest to qualified development teams could go before the County Commission in May to select an architect, designer, property manager, contractor, construction manager and other professionals.

The work would be part of more than $1.5 billion in capital improvements planned over the next two decades by the self-supporting enterprise fund that does not rely on public funding.