One by one the last occupants of those cute, colorful — but ramshackle — Key West style cottages on the north side of Lantana’s Ocean Avenue have moved elsewhere.
First, Jeannie’s Ocean Boutique relocated to Plaza del Mar in Manalapan. Then Mario’s moved to Lake Worth Beach. And just last month, the owners of Oceano Kitchen, whose lease was not renewed, took their popular restaurant to Lake Worth Beach.
Other locations on the 200 block have been tenantless since 2004.
Town officials have wanted to amp up business on the avenue for years and have been frustrated with the declining condition of the 12 cottages between Oak Street and Lake Drive.
Last month they reported some progress, and Nicole Dritz, Lantana’s development services director, said: “It is expected the structures will be demolished and redeveloped.”
Mayor Karen Lythgoe found this news encouraging.
“For the first time in years something is finally happening,” she said. “We look forward to entertaining proposals for redevelopment.”
The cottages are owned by Marsha Stocker and Steven Handelsman, who are siblings. They plan to hold on to the land, but may be open to development ideas.
“They have indicated a desire to enter into a land lease, not sale,” Dritz said.
Although no developer has expressed interest yet, Town Manager Brian Raducci, Town Attorney Max Lohman and Dritz have been working with the property owners to find one.
And Lythgoe said she has been talking to residents who have contacts with developers to try to find someone interested.
Stocker and Handelsman inherited the properties after their parents, Burt and Lucille “Lovey’’ Handelsman, died. The Handelsmans once owned a real estate empire worth $550 million, including properties on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.
But the cottages have fallen into so much disrepair that code violations for the properties have resulted in fines in excess of $833,000 and are growing at $1,000 per day, Dritz said.
Any new development would need to be in line with the town’s new master plan for the C1 Downtown Overlay. The master plan suggests “a balance between preserving existing structures with the greatest architectural and historical character and building new.”
Attempts by The Coastal Star to reach the property owners have been unsuccessful.