By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Atlantic Crossing is another step closer to reality.
Delray Beach commissioners unanimously signed off an amended settlement agreement that will end state and federal litigation between the city and the developers of the more than $200 million redevelopment project, Ohio-based Edwards Cos.
The project plans to bring condos, offices, restaurants and shops to 9 acres of East Atlantic Ave. The project was approved in Jan. 2014 and has been in litigation for nearly two years. The developer alleged that the city delayed the project and sued for $40 million in damages.
“The time has come to move forward with a settlement,” Mayor Cary Glickstein said before the vote.
The settlement adds an east-west access road into the project from Federal Highway that many residents advocated for.
Commissioners first agreed to a settlement proposed in March, but the developer wanted to see several minor changes. After a bit of negotiating, the settlement was agreed upon.
“If we are negotiating there can’t be perfect for both sides,” Commissioner Mitch Katz said. “We are pretty close here. We all have concerns about this project. We all have concerns about the size. We all have concerns about the traffic. We all have concerns about the green space, but those are all decisions that have been made.”
The agreement provides a timeline for funding and improvements the developer must make to the project. It also provides timelines for the city to comply with.
“While reaching settlement has been challenging, we’re eager to work with the City to get Atlantic Crossing underway, and finally bring the east end of Atlantic Avenue to life,” said Edwards Cos. COO Dean Kissos. “We’re excited to get the ball rolling and to work with the City to obtain final approvals as soon as possible. We look forward to having the settlement become final, enabling us to dismiss the state and federal lawsuits, assuming there are no third-party challenges to the agreement.”
If the settlement is finalized, the proposed road and changes to accommodate it will have to go before the city’s site plan review and appearance board.
If a resident or third party challenges the approval process moving forward, the proposed settlement is subject to going away, which would land the city and the developer back in the court room.
While the agreement gives the city the requested road, some traffic calming measures for neighbors and ends litigation, the city lost out on some other terms like a once pledged $500,000 donation to Veterans Park by a former partner in the deal.
The city also spent thousands on traffic engineers, who recommended against selecting the two-way road that commissioners ultimately supported.
The idea of the road dates back to a previous version of the project, which included an east-west road link between two buildings in the project called Atlantic Court. That project was not officially adopted by the commission. The most recently approved project did not include the once-proposed road.
City staff and the city’s site plan review and appearance board recommended keeping the project the same because adding a road could possibly create more traffic issues like accidents and gridlock. Commissioners still pressed the developers for the road.
In an effort to satisfy the commission, the developers proposed two road options. The first option would add a two-way street in and out of the development. The second would add a one-way westbound road that connects Northeast Seventh Avenue to Northeast Sixth Avenue.
Commissioners had agreed to go with the option recommended by an independent firm. Traffic engineering experts from Simmons & White stated the two-way street has the potential to create more accidents and congestion that spills out on Atlantic Avenue and the adjacent roadways.
They recommended the one-way option, stating it increases the accessibility to the site, limits the amount of cars creating a back up on Atlantic Avenue and has less of an impact on surrounding neighborhoods, including the Marina Historic District.
Despite the promise to go with what was recommended by the firm, the road was rebuffed by commissioners and a legal battle ensued.
The road agreed upon in the settlement will be a two-way road.