Friday, May 17, 2024

Bids Come in for West Atlantic Property, Arts Garage Asks for a Liquor License, and More

Delray Beach has received six bids for the property that the city considers crucial to redevelopment of West Atlantic Avenue and surrounding neighborhoods.

Friday was the deadline for proposals to buy the three blocks east of the Fairfield Inn. The community redevelopment agency spent roughly $8 million to acquire the roughly 30 properties. It will be the CRA’s second attempt at a mixed-use project on that site.

Jeff Costello

Details of the proposals are not yet public record. We don’t know the bidders’ proposed purchase price or their plans. Executive Director Jeff Costello said the staff would make a presentation to the CRA board at next Tuesday’s meeting. Costello and others will rank the proposals before the board—the city commission and two others—votes on which to accept. That could come as early as the CRA’s Dec. 4 meeting, but Costello said such a timetable “could be a little too aggressive.”

For now, the CRA will use its consultant—PMG—to review the proposals and determine whether they met all the requirements of the Request for Proposal. If some didn’t, the CRA board can decide whether to allow time for corrections or eliminate them.

One headline is the proposal from Uptown Delray. The company won the contract five years ago, but the previous CRA board terminated the deal in late 2016 when Uptown failed to obtain financing. Mayor Shelly Petrolia and other CRA board members tried to restart the deal with Uptown, but the majority voted to reopen the bidding.

Another headline is the bid from Jones New Urban. In 2013, the CRA staff ranked Jones first. The CRA board overrode that recommendation and picked Uptown.

The other bidders are: Land America LLC, which lists a Delray Beach address; BHE3, a real estate investment firm based in Miami-Dade County that also has developed projects in New York; Hollywood-based Prime Investors, which showed interest last spring; and Kayne Anderson Real Estate. It’s part of a private equity firm that is based in Los Angeles but also lists an office in Boca Raton.

The committee that will rank the qualified bidders includes Costello, CRA Assistant Director Renee Jadusingh, CRA Economic Development Director Joan Goodrich, Planning, Building and Zoning Director Tim Stillings and Senior Planner Anthea Gianniotes.

Arts Garage may be serving?

Despite the election, Delray Beach has scheduled a city commission meeting for tonight. And there’s some interesting stuff on the agenda.

One item is the request by Arts Garage to apply for a liquor license. Patrons now can bring their own wine, beer or spirits at no cost. Arts Garage Executive Director Marjorie Waldo acknowledges that the public loves the privilege. In her letter to the commission, however, Waldo stresses the need for Arts Garage to bring in more revenue. She notes that Old School Square has such a license.

Waldo says Arts Garage would sell alcohol only when performances are scheduled, so as not compete with nearby bars and restaurants. Commission approval is necessary because the license requires an amendment to Arts Garage’s lease of city space.

Delray Coastal Link

Also on Tuesday’s agenda is a resolution under which Delray Beach would take the next step toward a station on the hoped-for Coastal Link commuter rail line, which would be an offshoot of Tri-Rail.

The city has identified a potential site for the station. It would be on city-owned land just north of Atlantic Avenue on the west side of the FEC tracks. If the city commission adopted the resolution, Delray Beach would commit to that location and begin designing the station and figuring out how to pay for construction. The city also would have to maintain the station.

In addition, Delray Beach would have to create a transit-oriented development (TOD) district within a half-mile radius of the station “to support the train service,” as the staff memo puts it. The plan could include housing. The city would have to develop streetscape plans and develop a parking plan that would work within the new downtown parking rules. One suggestion is to allow electric golf carts in the district.

According to the memo, some residents wondered if a site south of Atlantic would be better. The staff disagrees, for many good reasons.

The city doesn’t own the vacant land on the south side. Previous development approvals have given the properties density that would not be “achievable” in a plan for the station and platforms.

In addition, the configuration of the site is problematic when it comes to design and there’s no continuous public right-of-way along the tracks. Riders would have to cross private property to reach their train. Lack of ownership could limit city control over development rules.

“The conclusion of the design team,” the memo said, “was that the alternate site south of Atlantic Avenue poses too many challenges, is not predictable, and is not desirable when clearly better opportunities for the public exist at the northern site.”

Tennis contract

Finally, even as Delray Beach negotiates with the owner/promoter of the annual pro tennis tournament for a new contract, the show must go on. An item at Tuesday’s commission meeting would approve $905,000 from the community redevelopment agency toward the 2019 event. The city also will provide support services.

Beachfront property appraisals

Councilman Andy Thomson

I wrote last week about the approach to Boca Raton City Councilman Andy Thomson from an attorney for the company that wants to build a four-story beachfront duplex. The attorney said Azure Development, of Delray Beach, would be willing to discuss an offer for the land at 2600 North Ocean Boulevard.

Mild panic arose in Boca Raton three years ago when the city council approved a zoning variance that could allow construction of a separate four-story structure at 2500 N. Ocean. One of the city’s great accomplishments was creation of what then was the beach taxing district in the 1970s to buy up beachfront land for a chain of parks. The thought of new construction compelled the beach and park district—since renamed—to get appraisals for the 2600 and 2500 properties and two others farther south.

The appraisal for 2600 N. Ocean was the highest—$7.2 million. For 2500, it was $5.06 million. The combined appraisal for the two other properties was $4.32 million. Aside from a small cluster of condos near Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, there are no other structures east of A1A between Spanish River Boulevard and Palmetto Park Road.

I can say with confidence, though, that neither the city council nor the district board would support buying all those properties at their appraised values, even if the agencies shared the cost. And there might not be a reason to buy them.

As the appraiser notes, those figures are based on the “extraordinary assumption” that the owners would get permission to build. All the owners would have to build east of what the state calls the Coastal Construction Control Line. The only property in the pipeline is 2600 North Ocean. City staffers have not finished their review of the latest plans. The staff recommendation to the Environmental Advisory Board could show that those appraisals are way too high.

According to a city spokeswoman, “Discussions are taking place” between Azure and the city manager’s office, but there is “nothing to report yet.”

GL buys golf course

The Palm Beach County Commission last week made it more likely that Boca Raton will get that $65 million from GL Homes for the city’s western golf course.

Commissioners approved GL’s plans to build 564 housing units on the roughly 200 acres north of Glades Road and west of the Florida Turnpike. Since the zoning in that area of the county is three units per acre, GL would be able to mostly max out the site’s potential. County staff found that the project would be “compatible and consistent” with the area.

GL would have to make at least 10 percent of the units workforce housing, marketing to people with middle-class incomes. Under the county’s loose rules, however, the company could build them as part of that project or elsewhere. Or GL could build no workforce units and pay the county a fee instead.

The Boca Raton City Council voted last November to sell the course to GL. The city would retain ownership of roughly three acres for a cell phone tower. Closing is scheduled for May. I’ll have more in my Thursday post.


If you haven’t cast a ballot, vote today. Based on early voting trends, Florida could break the state record for turnout in a midterm election—66 percent, set in 1994.




Missed the last City Watch?

Visit our City Watch page and also sign up for our City Watch e-newsletter, where you’ll get the latest column delivered directly to your inbox.


Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.

Related Articles

Latest Articles