The Coastal Star

Delray Beach: Improvements to beach promenade questioned, delayed

One proposal aims to widen sidewalks and preserve ocean vistas along A1A. Rendering provided by Bob Currie

By Jane Smith

Delray Beach residents will have to wait at least a year to see promised improvements along the 1.25-mile promenade along the municipal beach.
The city had planned to use a design/build contract to fast-track the project, but those types of contracts are problematic, City Manager Don Cooper said.
Instead, the design and build contracts will be separate.
“We want to do it right, not necessarily fast,” he told city commissioners at their Nov. 17 meeting.
The Beach Property Owners Association revealed its latest conceptual master plan that estimated the cost to be $3.4 million including $200,000 for contingencies.
Association members, including architect Bob Currie, had donated their time over the past seven years to hold public gatherings on what residents want at the beach.
Currie’s plans, updated since the September gathering, focused on new benches, showers, lighting, garbage cans, solar-powered parking meters, bike racks and pathways for the linear park. The project aims to preserve ocean vistas, create wider sidewalks and replace street furniture such as benches and garbage cans — with a little flourish.
Some commissioners preferred a subdued color palette to match the silver buttonwood and gumbo limbo trees along the beach.
Mayor Cary Glickstein liked the flourish of curved benches but questioned whether masonry walls behind them were necessary.
“Of the thousands of people who have communicated, not one said we need more masonry walls,” he told Currie and BPOA members.
He also objected to the signs announcing “Delray Beach.” He thought they were too “contrived” and looked like they belonged in Pompano Beach or Fort Lauderdale.
The stockade fence looked too modern to him; he said he prefers the snow fencing that needs to be replaced.
He also wanted to see elements that would make the beach accessible to disabled people.
Vice Mayor Shelly Petrolia said she liked the tall sea grape growth along the beach’s south end.
But both comments were outside the scope of the current project. The sea grapes need to be trimmed, consultant Rob Barron explained, to allow their root systems to be healthy and prevent the plants from blowing over in a storm. He is in charge of the dune management plan that will include the sea grapes.
Disabled access on the beach also is not included in the group’s linear park improvements. Its work stops where the beach begins.
Commissioner Jordana Jarjura stressed the beach should retain its natural look. She also proposed a bike-sharing  program, which other commissioners agreed could work well with the image the city is trying to project.
Rebuilding the gazebos was postponed and will be included as part of the beach master plan.
The Beach Property Owners took offense to some of the comments because they had met individually with each commissioner, except for Al Jacquet who had a scheduling problem. They showed each commissioner the conceptual plan prior to the meeting.
“It was all positive,” Andy Katz, vice president, said a week later. “It’s incumbent on the city commission to decide whether they will honor the charette process. They have a responsibility over spending public dollars.”
Cooper will take the commissioners’ comments and work with staff to create a bid for the design contract.

In other action at the Nov. 17 meeting, the commission unanimously approved a contract with its firefighters that is retroactive to Oct. 1, 2014. The 3-year agreement includes raises up to 5 percent and will cost the city about $4.2 million.
Firefighters will receive back wages and raises. Human Services Director Tennille Decoste said she wanted the firefighters to receive the extra money in their checks before Christmas.

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