Update: Citizens group sues city over density approval for Atlantic Plaza II
By Tim Pallesen
Coastal residents near the proposed Atlantic Plaza II project remain concerned after Delray Beach commissioners narrowly gave developers the OK to build 40 units per acre last month.
“The density is resolved. Everyone is satisfied with the number of housing units,” Barr Terrace resident John Papaloizos said. “The concern now is over the mass and scale of the project.”
Papaloizos says his group, Save Delray Beach, will file a lawsuit against the controversial project even though the Beach Property Owners Association decided not to sue after commissioners voted on Dec. 4.
“We’re happy to see the density reduced, but we still have some concerns,” beach owners president Andy Katz said.
The developer originally asked for 51 housing units per acre. The reduction to 40 units per acre was necessary to win a 3-2 commission vote for a conditional use permit.
Mayor Woodie McDuffie joined Commissioners Adam Frankel and Angeleta Gray to approve the lower density. McDuffie said office space included in the multi-use project will attract young professionals to high-paying jobs in the downtown.
Vice Mayor Tom Carney and Commissioner Al Jacquet voted against the density request, saying it should be cut more.
The Dec. 4 vote came after a second marathon public hearing where neighbors objected to the traffic that the $200 million project would generate on East Atlantic Avenue near the bridge.
Developers want to build 79,000 square feet of office space and 80,000 square feet of restaurants and retail in addition to 356 apartments on the north side of Atlantic Avenue east of Federal Highway.
The developer negotiated during the Dec. 4 hearing with neighbors north and south of the project site to win their support. The developer will pay to close Northeast Seventh Avenue and install traffic calming to the south.
But Save Delray Beach still plans to file its lawsuit to meet a 30-day deadline after the commission’s Dec. 4 vote. “We still believe it’s too big,” Papaloizos said.
The developer will ask the city for site plan approval this year.
Katz said the Beach Property Owners Association will review the site plan application to decide whether to object, as the coastal residents group did at the two density hearings.
“We want the project designed to be attractive for residents to see when they come over the bridge,” Katz said. “The bridge is our connection to the rest of the city.”
Atlantic Plaza II project manager Don DeVere met with neighbors on Dec. 17 to discuss a possible compromise prior to site plan hearings. Three architects who live near the project suggested modifications to preliminary designs.
“Most of their comments were in line with what we believe the design issues to be,” DeVere said. “We’re putting forth an earnest, good-faith effort to respond quickly to community feedback on design.”
Papaloizos described the two-hour discussion as productive. “But the developer doesn’t want to give up square footage,” he said. “The city master plan says this project must be compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. The developer said nothing to put people at ease.”
Neighbors remain concerned about traffic congestion after DeVere said large delivery trucks to restaurants and other businesses would enter on East Atlantic Avenue rather than Federal Highway.
DeVere will meet with opponents again in late January before submitting a site plan application.
“How do you scale down a very large project into the scale of Delray?” DeVere asked in explaining the challenge.
“We really want this project to be something that we all can be proud of,” Papaloizos said. “That’s our rallying cry.”