By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Uptown Atlantic’s best and final offer of $2 million to develop 6 acres of land on West Atlantic Avenue with places to live, shops, restaurants and offices was not enough for the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency board.
In a narrow 4-3 vote, board members voted to send the property out to bid rather than sign a contract to move forward with Uptown’s project.
That means any developer interested in building a project on the land located between SW 600-800 blocks will be able to submit their ideas for consideration.
“Everyone is willing to wait the extra number of years in order to get the right project,” board member Shirley Johnson said, flipping her position from supporting Uptown to going out for bid. “Everyone wants the right gateway project design and the right developer.”
Board member Ryan Boylston called the Equity project “A project” not “The project.”
About a dozen residents wore T-shirts saying, “Be Fair! Go! FRP/RFQ and urged the board to send the project out to bid to try to get more money for the land and a better project.
“The best process you should be taking at this point is a RFP/RFQ process,” resident and former CRA board member Morris Castarphen said. “I believe in second chances, but you aren’t even giving the other developers one chance to develop that land or even submit a proposal. You have an opportunity tonight to make it right.”
The agency has been dealing with Uptown, which used to be known as Equity, since 2013. The developer won the bid to bring its mixed-use project to the land for $1.2 million. But after numerous extensions and issues, the board at the time terminated the contract.
The developer Palm Beach Garden-based John Flynn Jr. then sent an unsolicited offer in April expressing continued interest in developing the project. The letter came just after the commission took over the agency board.
In July, the board agreed to open the idea of negotiations. Mayor Shelly Petrolia participated in the negotiations and the developer upped his price to $2 million. Other interested developers submitted letters of interest and offered more money.
The agency board spent $7 million to assemble the land and appraisals on the land range from $15 million to $17 million.
Residents say a transparent bidding process could bring in more money.
The project would also have to follow the city’s new development rules, which require more green space and other requirements. This project began under the city’s old rules.
But having a project that has received many city approvals is why board members Petrolia, Adam Frankel and Angie Gray wanted to support Equity.
“We are going to get something started on West Atlantic finally,” Petrolia said. “I would expect a lot of people in this community to be excited. It’s important for us to get something on West Atlantic to spur redevelopment.”
But settling for what is in front of the board was not enough for the majority of the board.
For Johnson the project didn’t grab her or “pop.” Board member Bill Bathurst also had issues with the design of the project.
“Right now we are coming up short with this project,” board member Pam Brinson said. “When you are hungry you will take anything. We are not that hungry to the point where we are just going to accept anything.”
The request for proposal will be open until Oct. 4. Some requirements interested developers will have to include are: workforce housing, a grocery store, pharmacy, bank, entertainment venues, help relocate existing tenants while construction is underway and hire locals for construction jobs.