The largest redevelopment in downtown Delray Beach has supporters and opponents lining up to weigh in on a project that could be a game-changer for a city known as the “Village by the Sea.”
Vitamin kingpin Carl DeSantis, former Rexall Sundown owner and now head of CDS International Holdings, together with Ohio-based The Edwards Companies, wants to turn nearly 9 acres on Atlantic Avenue west of the Intracoastal Waterway into a pedestrian-friendly mixed-use project. The unnamed complex, informally called Atlantic Plaza II, will feature 442 multi-family residences, 80,000-square feet of Class A office space and 80,000 square feet of shops.
The four-block property includes the Atlantic Plaza shopping center next to the city’s Veteran’s Park, plus a large parcel of land assembled to the west and bordering Federal Highway (N.E. 6th Avenue.) The buildings will mostly rise three and four stories, except for one, five-story apartment. The project’s height will be tiered, like a wedding cake.
“It’s a great project for the city, and the economic benefits are incredible in terms of the tax dollars going to the Community Redevelopment Agency,” said Bill Morris, a consultant for the developers.
The project will total around 564,000 square feet and cost about $200 million to build.
But some residents and business leaders are aghast at the size of the project, which will shoehorn a large number of residents, office workers and shoppers into a space that abuts a quiet residential area to the north, and the park and bridge to its east.
They worry the project could turn Delray’s downtown into the “Traffic Jam by the Sea.”
“It’s too much of too much for that location,” said Cary Glickstein, a Delray Beach-based real estate developer, former chairman of the city’s Planning and Zoning Board and contender for the March mayoral election. (The other mayoral candidate, Tom Carney, did not return a phone call for comment.)
Morris said traffic shouldn’t be a concern. People who will rent the project’s mostly small apartments (average size is about 850 square feet) likely will walk or bicycle around downtown’s many restaurants and shops. That’s what he’s noticed at the nearby Worthing Place apartments, which he built.
But Glickstein isn’t swayed.
“What are the benefits of this?” Glickstein asked. “We are dropping thousands of people into the downtown, within several yards of the Atlantic Avenue bridge, and this issue has not been thoroughly evaluated.” As it is now, when the bridge is up, traffic backs up from the west to U.S.1 and from the east to A1A, a situation likely to grow much worse if Atlantic Plaza is redone, Glickstein said.
Residents of the Palm Trail Association, directly north of the project on 7th Avenue, are wary.
“Delray Beach is unique,” said Benita Goldstein, owner of the Historic Hartman House Bed and Breakfast on 7th Avenue and head of Palm Trail’s civic committee. “We’re trying to hold onto that. We recognize the area needs to be developed, but we want it in mind with who we are. This is one of the largest projects anywhere.”
Why does the project need to be so big?
Morris said bank financing is scarce for everything but apartments these days, and so developers need a large number of residences to pay for the office and retail parts. Glickstein countered by saying that making the project economically viable for the developer should not be a concern for taxpayers.
There’s another reason the project needs to be this size, and that is because Class A office space is in demand by companies that want to be downtown, said Vincent Nolan, economic development director for the city and the CRA. “Unequivocally, we are in need of quality Class A space,” Nolan said. “But we haven’t had the product to show” interested companies, he added.
Law firms, software firms and financial firms have expressed interest in the office space, which likely will cost about $40 a square foot, including taxes and insurance, Morris said.
Goldstein said residents would like to see traffic northbound on 7th Avenue blocked to limit traffic into the residential area right behind the project. Morris said the developers would be willing, but Delray Beach city manager Dave Harden said the city doesn’t favor the idea of shutting down streets.
If the project is approved, construction on the first phase, between 6th and 7th avenues, could start in the first quarter of 2013 and be complete in 18 months. The second phase, closer to the Intracoastal, would begin after that. The build-out is expected to take four years, Morris said.
A decision on the project is coming down to the wire: A city commission vote is set for Nov. 13.
Also under consideration by the city of Delray Beach: Turning an office complex at the southeast corner of Federal Highway and Linton Boulevard into a shopping and restaurant complex known as Delray Place.
Harden, the city’s manager, said the developer has indicated that the popular Trader Joe’s grocery is interested in the site — but it needs a decision fast on the land. Joe Carosella, the property’s owner, did not return a phone call seeking comment. Residents of nearby Tropic Isle have expressed concern that noise from delivery trucks will be disruptive if shops or a grocery store locate there. At press time, an initial review of Delray Place by the city commission was set for tonight, election night.
Source: Palm Beach Post
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