CRA board reviews West Atlantic Avenue redevelopment proposals

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By: Marisa Herman
Associate Editor

Delray Beach’s Community Redevelopment Agency board will consider whether to move forward with an existing redevelopment plan proposed for several blocks of The Set or start the process over to find a new developer and project on Thursday.

Plans to develop agency owned property on several blocks of West Atlantic Ave. have been in the works for years.

In 2013, a developer was selected to build a project that included affordable housing, restaurants, offices, shops and a grocery store. Plans were approved by the city in 2015.

That approved plan known as “Uptown Delray” fell through when the developer failed to close on the property. The purchase and sale agreement between the developer and agency totaled about $1 million.

The project was slated to go back out to a request for proposal by the previous agency board. Now, there is a push by the newly comprised agency board to revive that approved plan rather than begin anew.

“It’s time for redevelopment,” board member Angie Gray said Monday during a workshop meeting on the project. “We have had a lot of conversations over the years and promises made. We have something in place now we can move forward on.”

The agency and developer have been in negotiations. Legally, the agency had to put out a notice asking for proposals from other interested parties.

That notice attracted six other developers, who submitted their vision for the space and what they would pay for the land, which was recently appraised at a market value just more than $15 million.

Letters of interest came from: Altman Development Corp., BH3 Management, KAREP, Keller Williams Preferred Partners, New Urban Communities and Prime Group.

Some board members want to pull back on continuing negotiations with Uptown Atlantic, which was formerly known as Equity Delray.

“I would like this project to go back for request for proposals,” board member Ryan Boylston said. “We can set the bar higher for this project. This project has to be the catalyst for where The Set goes.”

He said the current project would be a “huge mistake for our city, the downtown and The Set.”

Instead of moving forward, he said he would like to see a proposal for new ideas put out that would incorporate the city’s new building codes, which changed after this project was approved. He said waiting a little longer by going out for new proposals would be more beneficial to the overall project.

A new proposal, he said, could feature things like co-working space and other concepts that were not considered in the original project several years ago.

Board member Bill Bathurst said he preferred some of the architectural elements presented in other developers’ letters of interest.

“Some of the architecture in the current design is great, some of it to me looks like a lot of other stuff we see,” he said. “As you come off of 95 it should really be stunning.”

Something all the board members agreed on was pricing for the property and how much affordable housing will exist in the project.

“If I had a property for $15 million and you said will you sell it to me for $1 million, it’s a lot of money to be leaving on the table,” Bathurst said. “I am concerned about leaving too much money on the table and getting the design that is optimal for The Set and Delray as a whole.”

Other letters stated developers would pay between $2 million and $6 million for the land.

For chairwoman Shelly Petrolia, time was an important factor. She said she does not think waiting for a new proposal process will outweigh the currently approved project.

The board could shorten the length of time typically allotted for the RFP process.

“The community has waited long enough for development,” she said. “I think the community deserve it and the town needs it.”

The topic will be discussed at 6 p.m. on Thursday in City Hall chambers.