Residents watch testimony presented by project appellants at the Jan. 21 Delray Beach City Commission meeting.
Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star
By Tim Pallesen
Atlantic Crossing has its final city approval — but with a warning by the mayor that its traffic might degrade the surrounding residential neighborhoods.
City commissioners gave final approval for the project’s site plan by a 3-2 vote on Jan. 21 in packed chambers. Construction may be underway this summer.
Coastal residents who joined in opposition with residents living north and south of the Atlantic Crossing site failed to get a street entrance off Federal Highway to relieve traffic on East Atlantic Avenue and into their neighborhoods.
Mayor Cary Glickstein cautioned commissioners that affected neighborhoods represent 30 percent of city taxable property values.
“I see the site plan as deeply flawed,” Glickstein said. “It’s almost inconceivable to me how the traffic flow could ever work.”
Commissioners Al Jacquet, Angeleta Gray and Adam Frankel voted to approve the final site plan stressing the economic stimulus the project will bring to the city. Glickstein and Commissioner Shelly Petrolia opposed.
“This is an opportunity to bring something that we’re proud of onto that site,” Jacquet said. “It needs to go forward.”
The site plan shows two entrances to Atlantic Crossing on north-south Northeast Seventh Avenue: at Atlantic Avenue and Northeast First Street.
The developer also agreed to build a ramp from Federal Highway into an underground garage. But opponents want an actual east-west street at ground level for traffic from Federal Highway to reach Northeast Seventh Avenue, the project’s only internal road.
“We don’t want people driving through neighborhoods to get to Northeast Seventh Avenue,” said Susan O’Rourke, a traffic expert hired by the opponents.
Coastal residents also fear that the $200 million mix of restaurants, shops, apartments and offices will cause a traffic backup on Atlantic Avenue.
“This is a massive project so close to the Atlantic Avenue drawbridge that it will cause gridlock,” resident Jack Barrette said.
“This is the city’s biggest project. Don’t let your citizens down,” Barrette pleaded to commissioners. “To approve it without a traffic solution would be the city’s biggest mistake.”
The city’s land development regulations require city commissioners to consider traffic volumes and circulation patterns to protect neighborhoods near new developments from being degraded.
“This is an actual law that three commissioners voted not to enforce,” Carolyn Patton, a property owner in the Marina Historic District, said after the 3-2 vote.
Neighbors who failed to get the east-west street say they will continue to address Atlantic Crossing traffic.
“I believe residents will be working with the city and developer to try to get the traffic situation as good as it can get,” said Florida Coalition for Preservation President Robert Ganger, who acted as a facilitator for the neighbors.
Glickstein predicted nearby neighborhoods also will be burdened by overflow parking when the Atlantic Crossing underground parking garage floods.
“We have 1,000 parking spaces essentially being built in a bathtub,” the mayor said. “What happens if that parking lot is shut down?”
Editor’s note: Carolyn Patton is a founding partner of The Coastal Star.