By Tao Woolfe
After listening to numerous residents’ fears that the Ocean One mixed-use complex would further snarl downtown traffic, the City Commission voted 4-1 to grant site plan modifications — and an extension — to the project’s new developer.
But on April 11, during the first of two meetings on the topic, the commissioners, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency board, warned Hyperion Development Group that the company must perform as promised or face legal consequences.
Hyperion is proposing a 371-unit apartment complex with 25,600 feet of commercial space. There would be 238 one-bedroom apartments; 91 two-bedroom apartments; and 42 studio apartments.
The original proposal, approved in 2017, called for 358 apartments, 12,075 square feet of retail and a 120-room hotel.
Amenities would include a pickleball court, a swimming pool and “beautiful, well-programmed public plazas and open spaces on Ocean Avenue and Federal Highway and resort-style private recreational amenities for the future residents,” according to Bonnie Miskel, attorney for Hyperion.
The previous owner, Davis Camalier, asked for several extensions and failed to start construction. As a result, the 3.7-acre site — bounded on the north by Boynton Beach Boulevard, on the south by Ocean Avenue, and east and west by Northeast Sixth Court and Federal Highway, respectively — has been vacant for years.
Miami-based Hyperion Group purchased the property in December 2021 for $12 million, but the Boynton Beach commissioners and residents said they are still nursing hard feelings about the project.
Miskel repeatedly asked the commissioners at the April meeting not to hold Hyperion responsible for the previous owner’s failures.
Miskel assured the commissioners that the only reason her client was seeking an extension was to secure the necessary permits to begin construction.
During almost three hours of public comment, residents expressed wariness of the new development as well as concerns about the density and traffic it would cause.
“We keep extending and extending, and should ask for penalties,” said Boynton Beach resident Yvonne Skovron, summing up the prevailing sentiment. “The property keeps getting transferred from developer to developer. Do they have financing in place?”
Many people in the audience mentioned that the city had “given away” a piece of property to facilitate the original Ocean One project.
They were referring to the fact that in 2016, the CRA sold a half-acre parcel of adjacent land to the previous developer for $10. That land, valued now at more than $500,000, allowed the project to extend north to Boynton Beach Boulevard.
The city had hoped the developer would, in turn, build a small park on the site, but neither it, nor the apartment complex, ever materialized.
Several residents of the nearby Marina Village complex said parking in the area is already in short supply.
“Parking is a huge issue,” said Linda Cross, a Marina Village resident. “When the bridge goes up, there’s a tremendous parking jam. We’re lucky nobody’s been hit in the marina parking garage.”
Her neighbor Terrence Cahill asked the commissioners to be sensitive to the community’s concerns about downtown crowding and traffic. “We need you to protect us, not the developers,” Cahill said.
Commissioners said they, too, are concerned about parking and density, and asked Miskel whether the developer could provide more parking.
The attorney replied that her client did not cause the problem, but that they will see what remedies are possible.
Hyperion is proposing to provide 652 parking spaces, with 532 of those spaces in the parking garage and the rest on the street level.
Mayor Ty Penserga said the city has already lost money on the project but wants to see something built on the site.
“I don’t want that land vacant,” Penserga said. “If this makes it to the City Commission meeting we can ask more questions.”
The project was brought up again at the April 18 City Commission meeting, and so many more residents talked about the downtown parking problems that the mayor suggested the commission discuss the possibility of building a big, downtown parking garage.
“You have all brought to the forefront that in order for us to grow this city we need more parking in the area,” Penserga said. “The city should start thinking about a public parking garage.”
Thomas Turkin, the sole dissenting vote, said he wanted to table the matter until parking and other issues had been worked out.
“I’m not trying to kill the project, but I want to mitigate a problem we’ve been hearing about for years and years and years,” Turkin said.
Ultimately, the commission agreed to allow Hyperion to add 13 more apartments to the complex and granted an extension. The commercial space has also been increased.
The commissioners, after conferring with city staff, imposed several conditions, including:
• That the extension be for only six months, rather than the requested year, to obtain permits.
• That another six to seven months would be granted to begin construction.
• That the developer meet with the city and CRA staff to discuss parking solutions.
• And that the developer hold two public workshops within 30 days of April 18 to discuss parking.