By Jane Smith
The Boynton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency board members have expressed reservations about taking parking spaces in exchange for money for the proposed Ocean Avenue Residences and Shoppes along Federal Highway.
The development team for the proposed project on the property that had housed the temporary city library has suggested providing the city with 120 public parking spaces in a multistory garage instead of paying the $3 million that the CRA spent acquiring the land at 115 N. Federal Highway.
“We’re not getting our $3 million up front,” Steven Grant, CRA board chairman, said about his concerns at the board’s Oct. 13 meeting. “We don’t need garage parking there.”
He suggested the developer could make scheduled payments over time.
Board member Justin Katz also expressed concerns about the project.
“This board has not approved of anything specific here,” Katz said. “Maybe we should get community input before we put out the request for proposal?”
Grant said he talked with William Morris, one of the developers of the proposed Ocean Avenue Residences, about the project.
Morris also was involved with Worthing Place, a residential development in downtown Delray Beach. When Morris talked at the Aug. 11 Boynton Beach CRA meeting, he touted the success of Worthing Place.
But, when Grant visited the project recently, he did not see it as anything special. “It had two vacant lots next to it,” Grant told his fellow CRA board members.
Grant said he also talked with developer Davis Camalier, who owns the land and building that is rented to the Boardwalk Italian Ice & Creamery at 209 N. Federal. Camalier said he had not talked with Morris, according to Grant.
“These are adjacent properties not involved but affected by the upgrade,” Grant said. “They are street-facing properties.”
Earlier in the meeting during public comment, Kim Kelly, owner of the Hurricane Alley restaurant on Ocean Avenue, said she had collected 4,000 signatures to oppose the project. She suggests building a hotel on the site to help the CRA’s nearby marina.
Morris and his partners want to turn the alley north of Kelly’s restaurant into a pedestrian walkway. If that happens, Hurricane Alley will lose most of its parking, Kelly said.
The CRA board did not take any action Oct. 13. Even though a 90-day window for the developer to see whether anyone else is interested in the property will not be expired by the Nov. 10 meeting, board members asked Executive Director Michael Simon to make sure the Ocean Avenue Residences development team attends.
The project would have 229 residential units, 18,000 square feet of commercial space and a parking garage with 544 spaces on 2.6 acres. The estimated cost is about $65 million. The developers want to include Dewey Park, a city park on Ocean Avenue, as its green space.
On Aug. 11, CRA board members unanimously accepted the Ocean Avenue Residences’ letter of intent. They gave the development team the 90-day window then. CRA rules require issuing a request for proposals if more than one letter of intent is received. As of the Oct. 13 meeting, no one else had submitted a letter, said Simon.
“By November, we should know more about train transit locations,” Grant said. The property sits next to the Florida East Coast railroad line that the Brightline express train used before the company suspended service in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Two other board members also said they remain flexible and want to see what is proposed.
One of them, Woodrow Hay, said: “We want to have some kind of train station there. Where are the citizens with their plans? I’m not in a hurry, but I would like to have all the cards on the table.” Ú