By Margie Plunkett
Commissioners approved the site plan for the $250 million Atlantic Plaza II project — two blocks of living, office and retail space on eight acres downtown — at a crowded public hearing April 7.
Residents there voiced support for the project, but also raised concerns about traffic safety and environmental practices.
The mixed-use project, which is less than half the size of Mizner Park in Boca Raton, still has another 18 months to go before construction starts, as the developer gathers permits and reroutes utilities. Pre-construction work includes relocating Seventh Avenue, as well as moving electric, water and sewer lines to the perimeter of the two-block property at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Federal Highway.
An underground garage tunnel is also part of the preparation stage. The developer needs state permitting, including for traffic, parking and medians — which will involve the city and Florida Department of Transportation.
Atlantic Plaza II, which has been in the works for a year and a half, will contribute $2.5 million in annual tax revenue for Delray Beach when complete and will employ more than 3,000 employees while under construction, said Michael Weiner, who represented developer CDS International Holdings Inc. at the public hearing.
The developer has green goals and will follow the city’s rules on workforce housing, he said.
The project reflects architectural styles of the vicinity, picking up on characteristics of other buildings and from the past, architect Derek Vander Ploeg said.
“It’s important to continue the Mediterranean Revival architectural style of the Colony Hotel across the street,” he said, adding that other detail includes: rock-face block, awnings, archways, dome rooftop, bracketed columns, varied numbers of stories and differing storefronts, Vander Ploeg said.
Commissioners also granted eight waivers for Atlantic Plaza II during the April meeting, including waivers for setbacks, parking garage, parallel parking, parking machines, visibility, pavement width and glass surface.
The public response to Atlantic Plaza II was positive, but several supporters pointed out what they saw as traffic flaws at Veterans Park and the bridge across the Intracoastal Waterway.
“This will be a beautiful project,” resident Kevin Warner said at the public hearing, adding he favors it — but not at the expense of traffic safety.
A planned median will be an invitation to jaywalkers, he said, and the traffic pattern is a threat to pedestrians already jeopardized by traffic moving too quickly over the bridge.
“It is an invitation to death,” Warner said.
Others urged the developer to take a higher profile approach to environmental issues.
Joe Snider, a green architect, said it would be a huge benefit to the city to have the project certified under LEED, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system for green buildings. “It gives credibility. There’s something out there called greenwashing. We want green projects and LEED-certified projects.”
Justina Boughton, who noted her Colony Hotel was “green before people cared about being green,” also encouraged commissioners to take the greener path with Atlantic Plaza II.
“We should actually go for the LEED certification. I know it’s a pain in the neck. When we have this project finished, we’d be able to say this project is a green project. I realize that’s not within what you’re able to do tonight, but you should find a way to make that possible.”
Commissioners explained before voting that consideration of the site plan did not take in traffic or green issues and reassured residents their concerns would be addressed.
* Separately in April, the commission approved an ordinance accepting a resurvey report of the Nassau Street Historic District that added five properties to the district, expanded its period of significance and changed its name.
The report changed the name to the Nassau Park Historic District, which includes lots on Nassau Street between A1A and Venetian Drive, and expanded its historic period of significance to 1935-1964. The resurvey report also recommended that an application be submitted to the National Register of Historic Places for the district.