12626766254?profile=RESIZE_710xDemolition of Key West-style cottages on the north side of Ocean Avenue began in mid-May. Mayor Karen Lythgoe is optimistic that a developer will negotiate a long-term lease with the property owners. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Mary Thurwachter

Some of the tiny, colorful cottages on the north side of Ocean Avenue between Oak Street and Lake Drive in downtown Lantana have been around since the 1920s. The Key West-style bungalows have been home to an assortment of businesses, from restaurants and fruit stands to dress boutiques and real estate offices, but fell into disrepair, with many vacant for years.

The dilapidated buildings are part of history now. The bulldozing began in mid-May as town officials hope to develop the property owned by the sister-and-brother team of Marsha Stocker and Steven Handelsman. Their parents, the late Burt and Lovey Handelsman, previously owned the cottages, which are on four contiguous parcels of land.

“The town does have some significant code enforcement fines (more than $900,000) on the property and foreclosure authorization,” said Nicole Dritz, the town’s development services director. “The agreement between the town and the property owners includes the property owners’ demolishing the buildings, sodding the properties and actively pursuing redevelopment in good faith.”

Once the demo is finished and the site is sodded, that would put the properties into compliance in terms of code enforcement, she said.

“The town is prepared to work with the property owners on the fines, if/when the site is redeveloped into a project that benefits the downtown,” Dritz said. “We are working closely with their attorney and town staff is ready and willing to discuss preliminary or conceptual plans with potential developers.”

Mayor Karen Lythgoe is optimistic that a developer will express interest and will be able to negotiate a long-term lease with the property owners.

“Several of them have expressed interest so it remains to be seen,” she said. “I would love to see some restaurants and small shops to create a downtown. That will likely mean residences as well, due to the costs involved in development. And the master plan market study demonstrated the need for more housing in Lantana.”

Lythgoe said parking is an issue that will need some creative solutions, which is why the Town Council, at its visioning session, expressed openness to five-story buildings, if that addresses the situation. She said the town is “not expressly wanting that, but doesn’t want to turn away plans before the council can evaluate them. That got misinterpreted by some in the town.”

Less optimistic is Vice Mayor Mark Zeitler, who has adopted a wait-and-see attitude. He’s concerned that the owners are “not actually wanting to sell the property, and just leasing it may be a hurdle,” he said. “I don’t think we should get the five stories just because these people don’t want to sell their property, that they only want to lease it. I think we would be hurting the town more that way.”

Zeitler said he doesn’t expect anything to happen quickly, especially since the lease idea may hamper interest from developers who might prefer to own the property.

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

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
7 hours ago
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in DELRAY BEACH
Jun 5
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
Jun 5
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in SOUTH PALM BEACH
Jun 1
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
Jun 1
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in DELRAY BEACH
May 30
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
May 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in BEACH WATCH
May 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in OCEAN RIDGE
May 29
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
May 29
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
May 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in BEACH WATCH
May 29
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
May 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in DELRAY BEACH
May 29
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
May 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in GULF STREAM
May 29
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
May 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in OCEAN RIDGE
May 29
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
May 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in OCEAN RIDGE
May 29
More…