By Hector Florin
Calling CDS International Holdings’ redevelopment plan crucial to downtown’s makeup, city commissioners on Dec. 9 supported the first of several approvals to remake a two-block area on Atlantic Avenue west of Veterans Park.
Three of six proposed buildings in the office-condo-retail complex can go up to 60 feet high, or five stories, which is 12 feet above city guidelines. Other approvals are pending over at least the next three months, including a shift of Northeast Seventh Avenue and the project’s site plan. It will take at least three to five years until Atlantic Plaza II is completed. It consists of nearly 200 residential units, mostly condos, and more than 200,000 commercial square feet. Office space will make up more than half that area, with shops and restaurants also in the picture. Underground parking would be provided.
Three years ago, commissioners nixed plans for a larger development on a portion of this site, now expanded to 8.65 acres and more than two downtown city blocks. Residents opposed to that plan have toned their criticisms with the new proposal, though several who spoke at the meeting expressed concerns about its scale.
Ultimately, commissioners agreed this latest plan succeeds in linking the largely underdeveloped site with its bustling surroundings.
“We have been looking for quite some time to connect the areas along Atlantic Avenue,” Commissioner Woodie McDuffie said, voicing his support to add more than 111,000 square feet of office space along the thoroughfare. The existing Atlantic Plaza shopping center, a motel and two small businesses remain open, next to vacant buildings and a gas station.
Business owners nearby along Atlantic praised the CDS plan. “This is going to be a tremendous help to our community,” said Dagmar Hejda, who with her husband, Milan, owns Sonoma Café across the street from the site. Neighbors and residents, including some from Delray Summit, fleshed out concerns over building height and traffic produced by the project, which would extend to the Atlantic Avenue Bridge.
“It is not consistent with the village atmosphere that is slowly disappearing,” said Beach Property Owners Association President Robert Victorin. “Tall buildings do not fit in this neighborhood.”
And in times of such economic uncertainty, some wondered what the purpose was to approve the plan at this time. The project’s timeline allows opportunity to dodge the continuing economic crisis, project representatives said.
Atlantic Plaza II would require "significant modifications" in current water-sewer lines and establish new services, according to the city. Three water mains along Seventh Avenue will be removed. New water and sewer pipes will be added, including a 24-inch water main within Veterans Park.
CDS President Bill Milmoe said the chance to redevelop two downtown blocks “is rare, and it’s crucial we get it right,” while CDS Chairman Carl DeSantis promised a successful project.
“I want the best, and I promise you that I will deliver the best,” DeSantis said.