By Tim Pallesen
City commissioners will review Atlantic Crossing, the $200 million proposed centerpiece for East Atlantic Avenue, one last time on Jan. 7 after residents filed appeals.
The developer thought the controversial project had cleared the final hurdle Nov. 20 when the city’s Site Plan Review and Appearance Board approved the project site plan by a 5-1 vote.
But because the project is designed without the need for any waivers from city guidelines, a vote by city commissioners to approve the site plan and design hadn’t been necessary until the appeals.
Those who had filed appeal letters by Dec. 3 are Kelly and Jack Barrette, Arlen Dominek, Benita and Jordan Goldstein, Mary Whittemore and Carolyn Patton, who also represented Marina Historic District residents Charles Dortch, Alexander Zeller, Noel Smith and Claudia Willis. The filing deadline is Dec. 6.
Several of those residents have paid for a private traffic study of Atlantic Crossing that wasn’t ready for the SPRAB meeting where developer Jeff Edwards tried to overcome neighborhood traffic concerns.
Both the Beach Property Owners Association and the Florida Coalition for Preservation had requested the Federal Highway entrance to ease traffic congestion along Atlantic Avenue. Edwards won SPRAB support when he promised to build the entrance if the city and state approve.
“The mother of all issues is traffic coming across the bridge. It’s already a zoo and it could get worse,” Florida Coalition president Bob Ganger told SPRAB members before their vote. “The issue of how to reduce traffic on Atlantic Avenue has just not been addressed.”
SPRAB chairman Rustem Ruvi and others agreed, prompting Edwards to pledge the Federal Highway entrance.
“This developer has gone to great detail to meet every part of the city’s design guidelines,” Planning and Zoning Director Paul Dorling said in recommending approval.
The final commission hearing on Jan. 7 comes after a tumultuous 2012 in which neighboring residents opposed the project’s original design and density request for 73 housing units per acre. City commissioners approved a reduced density of 40 units per acre in December 2012 and architects have spent most of this year on redesigning the project.
A total of 261 apartments and 82 condos now would be built, for a final density less than 40 units per acre.
Local architect Robert Currie, who supervised the redesign, described it to SPRAB as “seven different buildings with seven different characters so it looks like the project was developed over time.”
The redesign, except for traffic flow, satisfied the BPOA and most other neighbors. “We think the developer has made great strides to design an excellent project that will bring value to Delray Beach,” Ganger said.
The business community has been highly supportive, particularly because Atlantic Crossing will bring 83,000 square feet of office space to the downtown.
“We’re excited that the developer and the neighbors have come to terms,” Chamber of Commerce chairman Francisco Perez-Azua said.
“The developer really listened to the community and tried to implement what they heard,” Currie said. “This is the most important project that has ever happened in Delray Beach and ever will happen.”
Edwards and partner Carl DeSantis plan a mix of residences, restaurants, shops and offices, where they say their residents will be able to live, work and play.
“This is going to fill that dead zone out there,” SPRAB member Jim Knight said of the nine-acre site on the north side of Atlantic Avenue east of Federal Highway.
Burt Handelsman, who owns the two blocks on the south side of the street, said Atlantic Crossing “will awaken an entire portion of the city.”
by the numbers
83,000 square feet Offices
39,000 square feet Restaurants
37,000 square feet Retail Shops
Editor’s note: Carolyn Patton is a founding partner of The Coastal Star and owns property in the Marina Historic District.