SOURCE: City of Boynton Beach
By Jane Smith
The Villages at East Ocean Avenue project has finally been approved after two years of wending its way through the Boynton Beach approval process.
“It’s been a long two years for all of us,” Bradley Miller, the project’s land planner, said after city commissioners finished several mostly unanimous votes at their Sept. 19 meeting.
Miller represents Boca Raton lawyer Arthur D’Almeida, who assembled the parcels over nearly 15 years. D’Almeida set up limited liability corporations to buy individual pieces, paying about $3.9 million.
The Villages project straddles Ocean Avenue and has two parcels containing slightly more than 5 acres. The project sits next to the FEC Railway tracks, possible home to a future Tri-Rail Coastal Link station.
Boynton Beach commissioners gave his corporations another .7 acre in abandoned alleyways as part of their approval in September.
Miller said it would take about one year to complete the design and permitting process. His client likely would seek a developer partner with construction experience to enter into a joint venture.
“With an approved project, you get more attention,” Miller said.
On the north parcel, fronting Boynton Beach Boulevard, an eight-story apartment building is planned with 336 units of various sizes from 700-square-foot studios to three-bedroom, two-bath units with up to 1,530 square feet. The majority of the apartments, 181, will have two bedrooms and two baths.
The building along Ocean Avenue will be three stories, a design feature requested by residents and approved by the commission during discussions earlier in the year. Architect Juan Caycedo said, “The whole idea is to create a village-like project, respecting the scale the residents wanted and keeping it pedestrian friendly.”
But that design didn’t sit well with at least one resident.
“The design looks really contemporary to me,” said Cindy Falco-Dicorrado, a member of the city’s Art Commission. “I see a large building with square lines. It seems like the stepsister to the Town Square.”
Caycedo insisted his design would fit well with Town Square. The 16-acre project, which includes public buildings and private uses, will sit west of the Villages.
“The design looks square to me,” Falco-Dicorrado said. “But I am an artist and I respect your design.”
The proposed complex will have a two-story fitness center that fronts Boynton Beach Boulevard with room for spin classes and a cyber café, Miller said.
He also said it will have a pedestrian zone along its perimeter with up to 18.5-foot-wide sidewalks, 17,000 square feet of walking space and three public plazas.
The main entrance for the Villages will be on Northeast Third Street, Miller said. That plaza will be 4,400 square feet.
The secondary entrance on Boynton Beach Boulevard will have a 1,350-square-foot plaza. The Ocean Avenue plaza was upgraded by 400 square feet to have 2,150 square feet.
The Villages will have 79 trees, required by the city. Seventy-two will be shade trees, the majority cathedral live oaks. Alexander palms will be used as accents around the swimming pool on the project’s north side.
The complex will have a 644-space parking garage on the north parcel, with three spaces of street parking available on Boynton Beach Boulevard, 11 on Northeast Third Street and five on Ocean Avenue, Miller said.
Apartment residents won’t be allowed to park their vehicles on the first floor and part of the second floor of the garage, Miller said. But he declined to be more specific about how many spaces would be available for the public.
D’Almeida bought the southern lots from the heirs of Bob Katz, a Boynton Beach real estate investor who died in 2006. Katz was a client of D’Almeida.
Three pieces on the north were purchased from the heirs of Harvey Oyer Jr., a former Boynton Beach mayor.
Resident Susan Oyer, whose family extended a mortgage to the D’Almeida corporation, asked about train station access. She also wanted to know how “green” the project would be: Would it have solar panels on the rooftops, would it use reflective paints for the exterior and would it have electric car chargers in the garage?
A new member of the Boynton Beach Planning and Development Board, Oyer had to step down from the dais when the Villages project came before the board in August. While she couldn’t vote on the project because her family would benefit from its success, she could still ask questions about it.
The Tri-Rail Coastal Link commuter line is in the planning stages; construction is at least five years away.
Along the railroad tracks, the project’s eastern pedestrian path will be fenced for safety and security reasons, Miller said. The fence will prevent people from crossing over the tracks and the project won’t have apartment doors on the first floor to provide security for the residents, he said.
“People will be able to walk up to Boynton Beach Boulevard or down to Ocean Avenue to the train station,” Miller said.
As to the paint colors and solar panels on the roofs, they will be considered, said architect Caycedo. “The need for electric car chargers will be market driven,” he said.
When the retail space on Boynton Beach Boulevard was discussed, the vote split the commission. Vice Mayor Justin Katz and Commissioner Mack McCray wanted the property owner to stick with the plan to put in retailers there.
But Mayor Steven Grant and commissioners Joe Casello and Christina Romelus wanted to give the land owner an option. If no one wanted to rent, then the space could be converted into live/work units with the renter having a business tax receipt from the city. Artists and designers were mentioned as likely renters, Miller said.
For the southern parcel, about 1.8 acres fronting Ocean Avenue, the complex would contain 30 apartments and five townhomes along Southeast Third Street. Each townhome would have a two-car garage, Miller said.
Along Ocean Avenue, the complex would have ground floor retail space and stand three stories tall, about 35 feet. Along Southeast Third, the complex would have a building that stretches to five stories. The townhouses would be in a separate, three-story building. Each unit would have three bedrooms and three baths.
“I like this design,” Falco-Dicorrado said.