By Jane Smith
Ocean One, a development that Boynton Beach approved nearly three years ago, has received a one-year extension of taxpayer incentives from a reluctant Community Redevelopment Agency board.
Without the extension, the approximately $4.1 million of taxpayer money would have expired on Jan. 16.
“We are all disappointed,” said investor Davis Camalier, who has owned the property since early 1999.
The CRA board members voted unanimously on Jan. 6 to extend the taxpayer incentives for one year, with a six-month update on the progress of finding buyers or investors.
Ocean One already has received development extensions from the city to March 2, 2023, because of governor-declared emergencies for the opioid and zika crises, red tide along the coast and various hurricanes. These declarations allow developers to extend their project timelines.
The approximately 3.5-acre parcel sits at the northeast corner of Federal Highway and Ocean Avenue. The first phase of the project is planned to be an eight-story residential complex with 231 apartments on Federal Highway, just south of Boynton Beach Boulevard.
As part of the incentive approval, the developer also will build 8,765 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, create 50 public parking spaces, construct the complex to green-building standards, hold a job fair and make a diligent effort to hire city residents and contractors for the construction. The incentive money is to be spread over eight years.
To square off the lower portion of the 3.0-acre parcel in 2015, Ocean One requested a CRA-owned sliver of approximately half an acre that borders Boynton Beach Boulevard. But Ocean One wasn’t willing to pay much for that land.
“We have been taken advantage of,” said Christina Romelus, a CRA board member. “We sold the (half-acre) for $10 and have watched property values increase.”
The half-acre piece is now valued at $532,613 by the county property appraiser. At the time of the sale in December 2015, that land was appraised at $480,000.
In exchange for the land at a nominal fee, Ocean One had agreed to build a public plaza by Jan. 20, 2021.
“We are not asking for an extension of the public plaza timeline,” said Bonnie Miskel, Camalier’s attorney. She did not say when the public plaza would be built.
Prudential Life Insurance had been on board to underwrite the 231-unit apartment project but then pulled out, Miskel said.
“In April, my client entertained the idea of selling the property through Newmark Knight Frank Florida,” she said. The Boca Raton firm put together a glossy, four-color multipage guidebook on the property and the apartment market in downtown Boynton Beach.
About 1,300 packages went out and “three serious buyers are negotiating with my client,” Miskel told the board. She declined to reveal the amount spent on the marketing.
The would-be buyers all asked that the taxpayer incentives be extended because downtown Boynton Beach apartment rents are lower than those in Delray Beach and West Palm Beach, Camalier said, though the construction costs are the same.
“I want to keep the communications open between us,” Camalier said.
Romelus thanked him for that statement. “I didn’t know that you were marketing the property,” she said.
Romelus said that residents of the adjacent Casa Costa and Marina Village developments “are looking at your property and saying why isn’t anything happening.”
“They are my constituents. They flood my inbox with emails. I need you to understand that and to be more transparent.”