By Jane Smith
City commissioners didn’t like the initial plans presented for Town Square, a 16-acre development that is supposed to create an active downtown for Boynton Beach. They saw designs presented Aug. 21 at a special commission meeting at the city library.
They told the development team, which the city hired as partner in the project, they want a bustling Ocean Avenue with wide sidewalks for outdoor cafes, tree-lined streets and little shops.
“I don’t see any of that,” Commissioner Joe Casello said. “I see apartments and parking garages.”
One proposed apartment building sits on Ocean Avenue, near the intersection with Southeast First Street. The other apartment buildings are on Town Square’s southern border of Southeast Second Avenue.
The only two existing buildings proposed to stay in their locations are the historic high school and the Schoolhouse Children’s Museum, Assistant City Manager Colin Groff said. The project’s boundaries roughly are Boynton Beach Boulevard on the north, Seacrest Boulevard on the west, Southeast Second Avenue on south and Southeast First Street on the east.
For the 1927 high school, Straticon Construction is seeking permits to begin remediation work, Groff said. Once that is finished, its engineers and architect can walk through the building and see what can be reused. He mentioned the trusses and the wood flooring in the second-floor gym.
“If we do this right, the gym can be one of the best places in Palm Beach County,” Groff said. It will be able to seat 500 for concerts and 250 at tables for weddings and other big events.
The first floor will contain the city classes and activities currently taking place in the Arts Center and Civic Center, Groff said. The first floor also will have a warming kitchen that can serve the meetings and events on the second floor, he said.
Groff received approval to move forward with the design of a district energy system that would serve all buildings in Town Square. The chiller system is energy-efficient and will help reduce the carbon footprint of Boynton Beach, he said. The design cost of the two-floor building is $307,000. The energy plant will cost $10 million to build.
The energy plant will sit on the north side of the high school and will be designed in similar style, Groff said. “The equipment will be on the first floor and the cooling towers on the second floor,” he said.
He also received commission approval to spend $69,000 to design a new water and sewer system for Town Square, estimated to cost taxpayers about $94.5 million.
Only Commissioner Mack McCray was opposed to spending the money. “I’m not in favor of what I see,” he said.
In plans presented in April, the library was going to be a separate building within Town Square, but commissioners learned that the two-story portion of the building has leaks and air-conditioning problems. They also want to remove Town Square traffic from Southeast Second Avenue, a residential street.
That’s why they’d like to combine the library and city hall in one, four-story building at the southeast corner of Seacrest Boulevard and Ocean Avenue, Groff said.
“A lot of city halls have civic space on the first floor,” said Wayne Dunkelberger, the architect designing the public buildings in Town Square. “We also can have the café from the library there.”
The police headquarters will be built on a city-owned parcel at the southeast intersection of High Ridge Road and Gateway Boulevard, just west of the interstate.
Casello and Commissioner Christina Romelus and Vice Mayor Justin Katz said the land on that location is valuable and could be sold to a hotel developer. They want to see the police headquarters on the east side of the interstate.
But McCray said they had voted to put the police headquarters there and that’s what he wants to do.
Mayor Steven Grant gave Groff a compromise to work with: Try to find an eastern site that is suitable. If one can’t be found, then build the headquarters on High Ridge Road.
A new Fire Station 1 is planned just outside Town Square, at the northeast corner of Northeast First Street and Northeast First Avenue.
Romelus also said she wants to see townhouses and condos in Town Square that people could buy, not just rental apartments.
Groff said the development team will take the commissioners’ input and develop a draft site plan with individual building plans by Sept. 28, a draft financial plan on Oct. 17 that commissioners will have to approve and then a vote on Nov. 7 about proceeding to Phase II, the construction phase.
By Jane Smith