By Jane Smith
A new coalition of 3,500 Intracoastal residents will monitor the Riverwalk Plaza development in Boynton Beach.
The Boynton Coalition for Responsible Development was created by the Florida Coalition for Preservation, a grass-roots group that promotes responsible development.
“The Riverwalk site has certain field conditions, such as the nearby fire station and a bridge opening on demand, that make traffic a big concern,” said Kristine de Haseth, executive director of the Florida Coalition.
Traffic was one of the major issues that Boynton Beach planners planned to discuss at a Feb. 3 meeting.
“Everything can be addressed,” said Shaul Rikman, founder and president of Isram Realty, Riverwalk’s owner. “Everyone wants to see the new project. I’m hopeful.”
Isram’s plans, filed in December, call for a 10-story, U-shaped apartment building with 326 units along the Intracoastal Waterway. This allows Isram to make the best use of the waterfront views.
The site of the Riverwalk Plaza complex is at an aging shopping center previously anchored by a Winn-Dixie store until early 2015, when the grocery left as part of a company plan to close some stores.
The complex, which sits along Woolbright Road, will contain 41,970 square feet of retail space, the 7,889-square-foot Prime Catch restaurant and the 2,988-square-foot Wendy’s with a drive-through lane. The Wells Fargo bank branch will remain, along with a Walgreen’s drugstore and Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store in a separate building.
Federal Highway makes up the western boundary.
The plans were sent to various city departments, including engineering and planning, along with the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency. That resulted in 132 comments, with the major ones focused on traffic, height, parking and sidewalks.
The 9.8-acre complex sits in a zoning district that allows building heights of seven stories, but Isram wants to build 10. The Planning Department would consider some extra height if the developer put in what Boynton Beach planners are calling “view corridors.”
The urban design elements aren’t defined currently but will be in the new master plan, said Michael Rumpf, planning and zoning director. Basically the corridors are open spaces between buildings, he said, that allow passers-by on Federal Highway to see the Intracoastal.
Staff also recommends extending the apartment building over the proposed parking area to the west and possibly connecting to the existing commercial structure. Right now, the commercial building is separate from the residential one.
The engineering staff had concerns about the entrances and exits from the project onto Federal and Woolbright. If traffic is traveling at 35 to 40 mph when someone suddenly slows to 25 mph, that can create a rear-end collision if there isn’t a deceleration lane, Rumpf said. Staff recommended changing the entrance on Woolbright to right-out only.
Plans also call for the Intracoastal Promenade, a linear public park, to sit along the Intracoastal. But the north and south entrances are not wide enough to encourage pedestrian use, according to CRA staff. Public art should be placed at the entrances to identify them, the CRA said.
The agency also wants to see more retail uses along the first floor that abuts the promenade.
De Haseth likes the thoroughness of Boynton Beach’s review and plans to meet again with city planning staff to share input from the new coalition.
The Boynton Intracoastal Group that represents 2,400 residents on the east side of the Intracoastal is part of the new coalition, said Tom McClure, group president.
“We all have the same concerns — height and traffic,” he said. “We want it to be built, but responsibly.”
McClure likes being involved in the initial design stage.
“There are no good surprises. If we are involved from the get-go,” he said, “I’m optimistic that we can come together with the coalition, the CRA and the developer.”