12686787862?profile=RESIZE_584xJohn Everett of Atlantis was one of a dozen lawn bowlers at a June 4 Delray Beach commission meeting seeking to keep the courts at Veterans Park. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

City Commission’s decision could add years to construction of Atlantic Crossing

By Anne Geggis

Lawn bowling scored a reprieve from plans to convert the area’s last remaining courts at Veterans Park into a parking lot to expedite the construction of a mammoth downtown development’s next phase.

A shortened construction timeline that would mean fewer traffic stoppages along major downtown corridors — paired with a promised $1 million contribution to upgrade the park — was not enough to persuade the Delray Beach City Commission to allow the developer to use city property for its plans.

The mixed-use project could shorten its construction work by two years if the city agreed, a developer’s representative said.

“It does expedite the construction portion of this overall phase to completion by two years, which would reduce disruption to the neighborhood, and gets the benefits of the … added tax base on the tax rolls much quicker,” said attorney Bonnie Miskel, representing the developer, Edwards Cos.

Atlantic Crossing opened its first phase in May 2023 after more than a decade of planning.

Previous commissioners had agreed with what Miskel outlined at a June 4 commission meeting. That proposition would have redesigned the park and had it back in working condition after construction was finished — in addition to a $1 million investment from the developer to redo the park. Those plans would have converted the current parking area into additional green space.

Commission changes tack
But, in probably the most dramatic reversal so far resulting from a new majority elected to the dais this year, the commission gave the developer’s proposal a thumbs-down. It would have meant eradication of the area’s last lawn bowling courts for at least four years.

The decision was a victory for the Delray Beach Preservation Trust, which in December had passed a resolution asking the commission to halt plans to change Veterans Park.

Newly elected Mayor Tom Carney voted against Atlantic Crossing’s plans for residential, retail and office space when he was previously on the commission in 2012. He said he considered the Atlantic Avenue development east of Federal Highway that is taking up several city blocks too big back then. Twelve years later, he recalled that the commission majority agreed to it after getting certain promises.

“I was part of the original deal … part of the discussion that we’re not going to be touching the park and I think that was kind of a sacred promise,” Carney said. “And I am going to stick with that. We are not going to touch the park and if it makes construction go a little longer, I’m very sorry.”

A dozen lawn bowlers in the audience — wearing the same white pullover shirts with their logo emblazoned on the breast — were ecstatic at the action.

“We’re very pleased,” said John Everett, 76, of Atlantis.

He picked the sport years ago as one he could play if he lives to 100, as it challenges eye-hand coordination as players try to hit a small, white ball using a weighted, slightly oblong, softball-sized bowling ball.

“I see a lot of honor in the commission,” Everett said.

Carney, Vice Mayor Juli Casale and Commissioner Tom Markert ran for office promising to constrain development’s effects on residents and leave the park as it is.

A missed opportunity?
Miskel, however, said the plan to use Veterans Park temporarily — and relocate the lawn bowling eventually — represented the best way to minimize the effects of construction on residents. And part of her presentation included slides showing parts of the park in poor condition.

This “minimizes the intermittent closure of area streets” — including Atlantic Avenue, northbound Federal Highway, Northeast Seventh Avenue and Northeast First Street — from “often shutting down, which happened with the first phase,” Miskel said.

Commissioner Rob Long supported the proposal.

“It feels like an offer that’s being made by a developer to make a $1 million investment in our park and substantially mitigate the impact of an already approved project,” Long said. “ … We know from the construction of the first phase of this, it really does impact residents in a substantial way.”

Residents who spoke evoked the historic nature of the current complex that opened in 1962 and Atlantic Crossing’s history that has involved the city giving up roadways and agreeing to increased height and density for the development.

Sandy Zeller, 80, noted that the city and Atlantic Crossing had been in a lawsuit and the settlement doesn’t mention changes to Veterans Park.

“It does not allow Edwards to come back to the city seven years later (after the settlement) and say, ‘Oh, here’s some more things that we want the city to give us,’” said Zeller, who is on the executive board of the Preservation Trust. “This proposal was categorized by Edwards and Atlantic Crossing as a public-private partnership. This is not a public-private partnership. They’re asking the city to give away valuable park land for private development.”

The Edwards Cos., based in Columbus, Ohio, could not be reached for comment.

You need to be a member of The Coastal Star to add comments!

Join The Coastal Star

Activity Feed

The Coastal Star posted a blog post
Jul 9
The Coastal Star posted an event
Jul 8
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in HIGHLAND BEACH
Jul 3
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
Jul 3
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in ACROSS THE BRIDGE
Jul 3
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in DELRAY BEACH
Jul 3
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in BEACH WATCH
Jul 3
Mary Kate Leming posted a blog post
Jul 3
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
Jul 3
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
Jul 3
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion
Jul 3
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in BOCA RATON
Jul 3
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in DELRAY BEACH
Jul 3
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in BOCA RATON
Jul 3
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in DELRAY BEACH
Jul 3
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
Jul 3
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in DELRAY BEACH
Jul 3
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in GULF STREAM
Jul 3
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion
Jul 3
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
Jul 3
More…