Friday, July 19, 2024

Delray to Vote on Affordable Housing and Doc’s All American

Delray Beach needs housing.

Delray Beach especially needs affordable housing.

But will the city commission today approve a project that delivers both?

That project is Delray Central

Boca Raton-based G&C Arbors Investors wants to combine two adjacent properties it owns on South Congress Avenue that are home to office buildings of two stories and four stories. G&C would add 271 residential units—55 of them in the affordable range—and blend the three structures into a mixed-use development on roughly 12 acres. The apartment and its parking garage would be eight stories tall.

Delray Beach has sought to redevelop this portion of Congress Avenue. Just south of Delray Central’s proposed location is the massive project on the former Office Depot headquarters location.

Last May, however, the planning and zoning board recommended denial of the application, which includes four waivers. In August, the city commission asked the developer to revise the plan with particular attention to reducing the need for waivers—exceptions to current rules—and adding open space.

G&C has done that. Rules requires that Delray Central have 25 percent open space on the site. The project has 27.5 percent. There are fewer waivers.

Yet at its October meeting, the planning and zoning board again rejected Delray Central. The vote was 4-3, with even opponents acknowledging that this version is much better.

Board member Gregory Snyder seemed to sum up the collective opposition when he declared, in essence, that Delray Central was wrong for that location. Joy Howell, who also voted no, wondered if it fulfilled the city’s “vision” for that area.

Christopher Brown, however, called Delray Central “a real addition” for South Congress Avenue. It looks like “the evolution” of that long-neglected stretch. Christina Morrison, another yes vote, praised the infusion of private investment.

Debate took a weird turn when board member Allen Zeller seemed confused about whether G&C was required to set aside nearly 20 percent of the units for affordable housing. There was no requirement, but Zeller kept at it.

Chairman Chris Davey, who voted no with Zeller, Howell and Snyder, and the board’s attorney eventually had to cut off Zeller’s comments because they were so far off point. My sense is that they feared Zeller would appear to be basing his opposition on a false premise.

Almost two years ago, the commission unanimously approved a plan by Delray Beach-based Menin Development to repurpose a commercial area on Linton Boulevard, add housing and create a mixed-use project. Planning and zoning board members also had approved it.

At the time, even the self-proclaimed anti-development Mayor Shelly Petrolia noted that Delray Beach needed housing. We will see if that sentiment still holds.

Delray to vote on Doc’s All American proposal

Renderings for the new Doc’s All American

Also on the commission’s Tuesday agenda is the new plan that would save the former Doc’s All American.

The iconic burgers-and-fries restaurant on Swinton Avenue just north of Atlantic Avenue is closed. The owner of that property would upgrade and reopen Doc’s and add a three-story office building facing Atlantic. If the commission approves the plan, historic designation for Doc’s would follow.

As with Delray Central, this is the second version of a project the commission previously rejected. This one is smaller and redesigned, based on the commission’s comments. Neil Schiller, who represents the developer, said, “There’s a lot of support in the community.”

That support, however, did not extend to a majority of those on the historic preservation board. The panel voted against the site plan. Schiller said opponents had two issues: They believe that even the smaller plan is too big, and they don’t like the Art Moderne style.

Yet Schiller correctly notes that Art Moderne is an acceptable style under the city’s guidelines. And based on their report, city staff have no problem with the style in that location.

“The new structure,” the report said, referring to the office building, “will not destroy historic materials that characterize the property,” meaning Doc’s. “Overall, the proposal is anticipated to provide for visual interest for the historic district between two complimentary styles.” The site is on the edge of Delray Beach’s historic district.

In addition, the staff takes a different view than the historic preservation board on the size of the office portion. “While the building is larger than typical buildings within the historic district,” the report said, “it is typical of structures along Atlantic Avenue. . .There are more multi-story commercial buildings along Atlantic Avenue than there are along North Swinton Avenue, which tends to contain residential scale buildings.

“By positioning the new three-story structure on the west side of the site and preserving the one-story Doc’s building in its original location, the proposal can be considered to be in direct relationship with the width and heights of buildings in the area and along Atlantic and Swinton avenues.”

In September, the commission granted minor waivers for the project. This vote will be on the project itself. I’m told that opponents on the historic preservation have been trashing the project all around the city. But everyone wants to preserve Doc’s, right?

What happens if the commission says no?

“I don’t know,” Schiller said.

Delray golf course renovation generating investor buzz

delray beach golf club
Delray Beach Golf Club

According to City Manager Terrence Moore, Delray Beach has received six proposals from companies seeking to be part of a public-private partnership to renovate the city’s golf course.

Moore included that information in his Friday newsletter to the city commission. City officials hope that, in exchange for leasing part of the course for development, the company will contribute the roughly $15 million for a course makeover, thus saving the city from that expense.

Under city procurement rules, Moore can’t release any names or details. That won’t happen until February. He called it “a robust response.”

FAU hires Tom Herman as new football coach

Photo by Alex Dolce

For the third straight time, Florida Atlantic University has hired a coach who fell from the highest levels of college football.

This time, it’s Tom Herman. He went 54-22 over two years at the University of Houston and four at the University of Texas, whose athletic department generates the most revenue at any college. Texas fired Herman because his 32-18 record wasn’t good enough at a campus that expects its team to compete for a national championship.

Herman replaces Willie Taggart, who was fired at Florida State before FAU fired him. Taggart succeeded Lane Kiffin, who had been head coach at Tennessee and offensive coordinator at Alabama.

Kiffin had two 11-win seasons, which set the bar at FAU much higher. According to news reports, FAU raised the bar on salary with Herman, giving him a five-year contract at $1.2 million annually, more than Kiffin and Taggart made. FAU moves up next year to the American Athletic Conference.

Even Kiffin, however, didn’t do well enough to get FAU a stadium naming-rights deal. That might be harder for Herman than winning a conference championship.

FAU to kick off fundraising campaign

Speaking of FAU, the university will kick off a fundraising campaign with an event at 7 p.m. tonight. According to a news release, the campaign will focus on “FAU Health, the environment and scholarship/student success.”

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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.

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