By Jane Smith
Delray Beach won’t have to pay more than $25 million in damages to the developers of the stalled Atlantic Crossing project after a federal judge dismissed the case and sent the remaining seven claims back to state court.
“I’m very pleased with the court’s ruling, which dismissed all federal claims against the city,” said Mayor Cary Glickstein. “As it stands, the ruling eliminates the possibility of any federal court damage award against the city, which was the thrust of their case.”
The remaining state court claims don’t seek monetary damages, he said.
The mayor’s deposition, one of 16 allowed in June, never took place. “It was only required in connection with the federal court claims, which have all been dismissed,” he said. “I presume my deposition would not occur unless the state court deems it necessary.”
The proposed Atlantic Crossing project sits at the main intersection in the city’s downtown — the northeast corner of North Federal Highway and East Atlantic Avenue. The 9.2-acre development lies just west of the Intracoastal Waterway with the city’s Veterans Park in between.
When finished, Atlantic Crossing will contain 343 luxury condos and apartments plus 39,394 square feet of restaurants, 37,642 square feet of shops and 83,462 square feet of office space.
The $200 million project was proposed by a partnership between Ohio-based Edwards Cos. and Ocean Ridge resident Carl DeSantis. Edwards bought DeSantis’ share in June for $38.5 million. But both would have shared in the proceeds if the federal case had been decided in favor of the developers.
“We are reviewing our legal options to move Atlantic Crossing forward and secure our property rights,” said Don DeVere, vice president of the Edwards Cos.
Atlantic Crossing began in 2008 as Atlantic Plaza II before the recession. Fast forward five years, Edwards was brought into the project, which was renamed Atlantic Crossing.
The development team sued Delray Beach in June 2015, claiming the city has not certified its site plan that was approved in November 2013 and affirmed by a previous City Commission in January 2014. Last October, the lawsuit was moved to federal court.
In April, while the federal lawsuit was on hold, the City Commission rejected the project’s modified site plan that added a driveway and redesigned the valet area into a circular path from a horseshoe-shaped version. The plan also called for improved contrast for the two loading docks and a pedestrian crosswalk moved north in the project to improve its safety.
The changes, though, were not enough to satisfy two Delray Beach commissioners and the mayor. They want a real street with sidewalks and bike lanes instead of a driveway and extra turning space so that vehicles can leave the underground garage safely.
The ownership of two alleys and NE Seventh Avenue is in dispute. Both are needed to complete the project, the development team and the city agree. As recently as July 12, city commissioners agreed to ask for the return of the alleys and street.
The development team had amended its federal complaint four times in less than 1 year. Federal Judge Donald Middlebrooks dismissed the two federal counts on July 25.
The Florida Coalition for Preservation lauded that decision as a “victory for the commission and the people of Delray Beach.”
The grass-roots coalition for responsible development also said in a statement that the developers’ attorneys “attempted to overwhelm private citizens (including the coalition) for both public and private communications about the project.”
The coalition recommends that the litigation be dropped and the time be spent on making Atlantic Crossing work better.
By Jane Smith