By Mary Thurwachter
A new Ocean Avenue bridge has been in the works for years, but precisely when the old bridge will be demolished and construction on the new span will begin remains uncertain. In Manalapan, Hypoluxo Island and Lantana, officials anticipate the project may start sometime this summer, but an exact date has yet to be set.
Kristine Frazell-Smith, project engineer for the bridge, said in late December that the county was still working on the designs and she wasn’t sure exactly when the bridge would be closing. What islanders do know, however, is that when the bridge is closed, they are all in for a long drive to the grocery store and pharmacy — unless, of course, Plaza del Mar management is successful at luring in those businesses.
“They say the bridge will be closed for two years,” said Daryl Cheifetz of Manalapan. “I may be skeptical, but it likely will be longer. This whole area is going to be very isolated.”
After Cheifetz asked the Town Council if anyone had any dialogue with Plaza del Mar management about bringing in some key services when the bridge closes, Vice Mayor Basil Diamond suggested she serve as the town’s spokesperson with the mall.
“We’d like to encourage them (mall management) to look for successful independent grocery stores or pharmacies,” Diamond said. “We (the town) will expedite anything permit-wise. The space is there and ready to go (referring to the site formerly occupied by The Epicurean and Village Marketplace).”
Lisa Hall of Kitson & Partners, a real estate development and management firm representing the mall across the street from the Ritz-Carlton at A1A and Ocean Avenue, said the property is being actively marketed. “While we don’t have any new tenants to announce at this time,” Hall said, “we are talking with a variety of prospects and welcome any leads or suggestions area residents can send our way.”
Cheifetz said the mall is offering favorable rates and has tried to woo independent grocers.
Manalapan Town Clerk Lisa Petersen said applications have come in from a pet groomer and a financial institution. Another prospective tenant is a high-end hair salon, Cheifetz has learned.
“That’s all fine,” she said, “but if we don’t get a small market or other vital businesses, we’re going to have to travel 40 minutes to get them. Some things you get used to, but this is not one of those things.”
The island does have a fire station staffed by Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, Cheifetz said. But she’s worried about the residents of The Carlisle, a high-end senior living community at the corner of Ocean Avenue and A1A. “They have ambulances going in and out of there,” she said. No one from The Carlisle returned calls for this story.
Judy Black, president of the Hypoluxo Property Owners Association (which represents 250 homes), said there’s been talk of shuttles and ferries to get residents across to Lantana.
“Businesses on both sides will be hurt,” Black said, “because if residents have to cross in Lake Worth they may choose to go to the new Publix there (as opposed to the Lantana Publix).” They may go to a closer Walgreen’s, as well.
“There are so many issues,” Black said. “We should get on it in a concentrated way.”
Diamond said the town looked into constructing a temporary bridge like Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach did, but said that there isn’t adequate room for it.
“We also looked into a ferry (either a walk-on or a drive-on),” he said, “but there’s no place to park enough cars on either side.”
Perhaps, he said, construc-tion will be delayed again as it has been at least twice in the past — once when A1A was being repaved.
“This bridge is a mess, but it’s safe and they do mend it from time to time,” Diamond said.
But putting off construction won’t make it any easier a pill to swallow, he said. “Do you
want your pain now or