By Tim Pallesen
Plans for an iPic theater near Atlantic Avenue came to a temporary halt Dec. 15 after it appeared that the city of Delray Beach and its Community Redevelopment Agency had failed to communicate.
The CRA chose iPic Entertainment in 2013 to build the luxury movie theater on city property after issuing a request for proposals.
The CRA request said the city would abandon a north-south alley that divides the 1.57-acre site between Fourth and Fifth avenues just south of Atlantic Avenue.
But the city has been rewriting downtown development rules since then. A new rule to stop giving away public rights of way to developers has the support of city commissioners.
iPic President Hamnid Hashemi didn’t know about the conflict until his design plan minus the alley got a cold reception from the city’s Planning and Zoning Board on Dec. 15.
“I encourage you to go back to the drawing board,” board member Chris Davey told Hashemi, who promised to return with a revised plan on Feb. 23 when it appeared that the board was ready to reject his theater.
The proposal to abandon the alley drew sharp criticism from the public.
“Closing the alley would be an absolute catastrophe for local businesses,” Big Al’s Steaks owner Alan Costello said.
“The CRA was way out of bounds to recommend closing off the alley,” local architect Alexander “Sandy” Simon said. “It makes no sense whatsoever. It’s absolutely stupid.”
Florida Coalition chairman Robert Ganger said the CRA should have been aware of the city’s discussion about new land development rules. “The one message that came through loud and clear was that we’re not going to abandon our alleys,” Ganger said.
City commissioners want the strict rule partly because of what they see as past mistakes with the downtown’s two largest development projects.
Worthing Place was able to build with a record 92 housing units per acre only because the city abandoned an alley. Commissioners now want a limit of 30 units per acre for future buildings.
Atlantic Crossing also is able to build more apartments because the city abandoned right of way for an east-west access street from Federal Highway that neighbors now say is necessary to relieve traffic congestion.
iPic predicts the eight-screen theater would draw 420,000 visitors a year to the downtown.
The project also proposes 42,869 square feet of offices and a 279-space parking garage.
By Tim Pallesen