Major downtown gateway site up for grabs

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Here we go again.

West Palm Beach, chocka-block with downtown development plans, is preparing to put its most prominent city-owned parcel on the market again, the Tent Site at Okeechobee Boulevard and Dixie Highway.

Plans for a major digital animation complex fell through when Digital Domain depixelated in 2012. Developer Michael McCloskey’s plans for a major medical complex died of an overdose of city commission politics in 2015.

Earlier this year, the commissioners, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), declared the 2.4-acre site “surplus” to pave the way for selling it but Mayor Muoio said the city first needed to get a better handle on how to resolve the gateway location’s traffic woes.

The city is several months from starting a planned a “mobility study” of pedestrian safety and road traffic in the area, which includes the Kravis Center, convention center, CityPlace, hotels, offices and the Royal Park bridge approach to Palm Beach, not to mention the intersection of Dixie Highway, a major north-south route into downtown, and Okeechobee, which funnels traffic to and from Interstate-95.

But the agenda for the Nov. 7 CRA meeting says there has been interest from developers, several of whom “have expended time and money analyzing traffic conditions at the site.”

“Staff believes that an RFQ (Request for Qualifications) would revolve around not only the development histories of potential developers, but also involve an outline of the kinds of creative traffic solutions that they might propose for the site,” the agenda says. “Real world proposals from the private sector might have a significant positive impact on the outcome of the city’s mobility study….”

Meanwhile, the site sits mainly vacant. It served as a parking lot for the city’s garbage trucks during Hurricane Matthew. The city is letting a group called Art Miami host annual art shows there in January, for up to three years.