By Larry Barszewski
The latest plans for Delray Beach’s Veterans Park tweak past proposals for the site. They would expand the park by absorbing the existing parking lot to its west. New parking would be made possible by sacrificing the park’s shuffleboard and lawn bowling courts.
The new parking lot construction work is to be done and paid for by Atlantic Crossing developer Edwards Cos., which projects to have the new parking lot design completed by January and — after receiving the necessary city approvals — for construction to begin in March and for the new lot to be completed in August.
City commissioners were supportive of the plans presented at their Nov. 7 meeting, directing staff to put together an agreement with the developer for the project.
“I’m super-excited about this. I can’t believe we’re going to have the opportunity for what is kind of a public-private partnership, in a way, to fund this,” Vice Mayor Ryan Boylston said. “One of the rare jewels that we don’t really talk about is that we have green space like this on the Intracoastal. Not every city can say that.”
The company, in a written offer to the city, said “in exchange for this significant private investment in the park we would ask that the city fund the balance of park improvements pursuant to a plan to be developed.”
Once the new parking spaces are added and available, Atlantic Crossing construction crews will move their heavy equipment staging to the old spaces on the west side of the park. The park expansion into that area would have to wait until the Atlantic Crossing construction is finished and the equipment removed.
The new design includes almost the same number of parking spaces as currently, 92 vs. 94, but adds a drop-off spot close to the park’s community center. Boylston said a drop-off would be helpful.
“Sometimes when you park in that parking lot, you’re very far away from that community building. It’s a long hike for some of our residents,” he said.
In addition, there’s the possibility of adding spaces designated for golf cart parking on Northeast First Street on the north side of the park.
“We have talked about taking some of the on-street parking that exists now and will continue to exist, and dividing that up into golf cart parking, which will double the amount of parking spaces available in that area and resolve some community requests for additional golf cart parking in the downtown area,” Public Works Director Missie Barletto said.
Mayor Shelly Petrolia supported having those spaces.
“I think there are a lot of people within the town, the city, that use golf carts,” Petrolia said. “That’ll actually be a positive, a net positive for us.”
The new parking lot will also have a direct connection to the park’s walkway along the Intracoastal Waterway. The expanded park to the west is expected to have paths connecting it to Atlantic Crossing’s retail, residential and restaurant spaces.
“There is slightly more green space as a result of this reallocation of asphalt than there is in the park now,” Development Services Director Anthea Gianniotes said. “It’s not a tremendous amount, but it is a more vegetated area than previously. Part of that is because the courts [to be removed] certainly are not green. They’re recreational area, though, to be fair.”