The future shape of West Palm; developers face the public

One West Palm

Urban Land Institute Southeast Florida/Caribbean and the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority invite the public to hear from developers and other experts March 10 on the most significant projects in the city.

The program explores real estate investment trends, creative development strategies, and projections on the opportunities ahead. The event takes place from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Hilton West Palm Beach, 600 Okeechobee Blvd.

To register, visit seflorida.uli.org.

2018 commission race begins, yes, 2018

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Shanon Materio
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Sylvia Moffett
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Paula Ryan

There’s no city commission election this March. As previously reported, incumbents Cory Neering and Keith James went unchallenged and were automatically re-elected.

But now the March 2018 race has begun.

On Monday, District 5 Commissioner Shanon Materio sent out an email to supporters, announcing she’ll be running in 2018 for another two-year term. The South End businesswoman first took office in 2013.

She’s an active participant on the dais and has pushed for improvements to the South Olive Tennis Center and the municipal golf course. More recently she moved to undo a commission vote she’d supported — which would have allowed developer Michael Masanoff up to $114 million in tax incentives for his Transit Village project — after it became clear the public opposed the giveaway.

Materio says the top item on her priority list is to fix the city’s traffic woes. “And I mean everywhere in the city. Traffic, traffic, traffic. From the North End to the South End, east and west.”

She also wants to improve the climate for businesses small and large, but especially to make sure the city is business-friendly to mom-and-pop operations. And speaking of climate, she wants to get the city more engaged in addressing sea level rise.

 

 

ALSO IN THE RUNNING….District 1 Commissioner Sylvia Moffett said Monday she’s about to throw her hat in the ring for another term in the North End. Moffett and Neering were the only commissioners to oppose the Transit Village subsidy from the start, as too rich a deal.

She said she wasn’t sure whether to run again but started getting calls from supporters on the one hand, and from potential candidates who wanted to know if she was going to run, so she decided to go for it.

She hasn’t put in her papers yet, but figures she’d better hurry up since apparently campaign season has begun early this year. She said she faces possible opposition from Pastor Martina Walker, who ran unsuccessfully against her in 2016.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST…. Longtime community organizer and real estate developer Paula Ryan also said Monday she has filed  for another term as District 3 commissioner.

Ryan, whose central district covers the Northwest, downtown and part of the South Flagler Drive area, said her top priority will be to help spur redevelopment of the Historic Northwest neighborhood, to support mobility studies to improve traffic flow and to press for roadway improvements on the South Dixie Highway corridor.

 

For more details, there’ll be an article in The Palm Beach Post, tentatively scheduled for tomorrow.

Will commissioners override mayor’s veto of Transit Village tax deal?

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Plans for the Transit Village on the west side of downtown call for offices, a hotel, condos and a commuter garage.

UPDATE: $114 million plan withdrawn: http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/transit-hub-potentially-114-million-subsidy-nixed-new-deal-sought/gSV0UR6FZHHJHWsxZ0VUmM/

City commissioners last week approved a tax incentive of up to $114 million over 29 years to cover the cost of developer Michael Masanoff’s Transit Village commuter garage. Mayor Jeri Muoio objected so strongly to the potential size of the tax-increment financing subsidy — her staff had recommended a maximum of $25 million — that she issued her first veto in more than five years in office.

At a public meeting at 4:30 p.m. today, the commissioners, acting as the five-member board of the Community Redevelopment Agency, have a chance to override the veto, if they can muster four votes. That means the three who voted for the $114 million last time would have to convince either Corey Neering or Sylvia Moffett to join them.

All say they want the project. It’s just a matter of how much the city should give a developer. The money would come from property tax revenues the project is expected to create by increasing the value of the land.

Supporters say the $114 million vote is needed to enable Masanoff to negotiate private financing for the project, which would create a transportation hub for the growing city. They also say he wouldn’t necessarily get that much but that the number is a starting point for negotiations over what benefits he would include for the city if he wants the project approved.

The plan calls for a 2,300-space garage, much more than Masanoff’s hotel, office and condo buildings require but which would provide many commuter spaces, which would help keep traffic off city streets, supporters say. They also question whether the mayor has the legal right to veto the commissioners’ vote.

But the mayor and her administration say that $114 million is many times more than any developer ever received, public purpose or not. And she says the strong-mayor city charter gives her the right to veto it.

Muoio, in Washington, D.C. for a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, will not be at today’s CRA meeting.

What do you rank as top West Palm stories to watch in 2017?

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Here are three issues we think will impact the city in a big way this year. Let us know which others you feel we should add to the list:

1. Expansion. Several major developments are expected to come out of the ground, from the Bristol Tower luxury condos on South Flagler Drive, to One West Palm, an office/hotel/condo project with two 30-story towers, on Quadrille Boulevard.

2. Traffic. The city is expected to undertake a “mobility study,” to help figure out how to prevent even worse traffic around Okeechobee Boulevard and elsewhere downtown.

3. Redesigns. Planning will progress on redesigns of sections of Broadway in the North End and of South Dixie Highway, from Okeechobee to Albemarle Road, reducing road width and adding trees, bike lanes and other features to make the arteries more pleasant for neighborhood residents and shoppers.

Clematis Street to close at railroad crossing for Brightline work

An upcoming downtown road closure could snarl vehicle traffic for commuters and foot traffic for the hundreds who visit Clematis Street each weekend for entertainment.

Clematis will close at the Florida East Coast Railway crossing from 7 a.m. Dec. 14 to 6 p.m. Dec. 18 as All Aboard Florida crews perform work to get ready for the introduction of the company’s Brightline passenger-rail service.

A freight train passes the All Aboard Florida's Brightline station, which is under construction in downtown West Palm Beach. The passenger rail service will connect West Palm Beach with Miami and Orlando. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
A freight train passes the All Aboard Florida’s Brightline station, which is under construction in downtown West Palm Beach. The passenger rail service will connect West Palm Beach with Miami and Orlando. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

» RELATED: More road closures to know about in downtown West Palm

It’s the most recent crossing closure in Palm Beach County as All Aboard crews have worked along the FEC corridor for the past year preparing for the new rail line’s launch, slated for 2017.

Get the latest news on All Aboard Florida’s Brightline rail service.

 

 

Downtown-Northwood-Outlets free trolley to resume service

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Free trolleys are set to roll again from downtown to Northwood and Palm Beach Outlets, with the mall, Downtown Development Authority and Community Redevelopment Agency poised to put up the cash to make it happen.

The city’s six-month trial period with the Blue Line service ended in May, after the mall declined to budget to keep it going during the slower summer months. But with the CRA scheduled to vote Tuesday to approve its half of the $158,000 cost, and with the DDA and mall on board to share the rest, service should resume this month.

The city is adding more stops to the route, mainly hotels, which should provide more riders but also slow down the service. Officials estimate that a trolley will arrive at each stop every 45 minutes, instead of every half-hour. The new stops include the new 400-room convention center Hilton, the 165-room Hyatt and 154-room Residence Inn.

Also under consideration: stops at the La Fontana and Portofino buildings in the Northwood neighborhood. Each has 200 condos.

As before, the trolleys will run Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., when the final one leaves the mall.

The city’s three trolley routes, established to reduce dependence on cars downtown, saw 218,000 riders during the first quarter of this year. Operating just the three days a week, the new Blue Line contributed 20,000 of those and was picking up steam when its six-month trial ended.

Baseball stadium to open on time but just barely

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Artist’s rendering of what the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches will look like.

The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches will be complete in time for the Feb. 28 opener between the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals, but not a second sooner.

Representatives of both baseball teams told the county commission Tuesday morning they’re racing to the finish, no thanks to Hurricane Matthew, which required work crews to spend two days securing the 161-acre Haverhill Road site and two more days getting it unwrapped and back in action.

Astros General Counsel Giles Kibbe and Art Fuccillo, a Nationals partner, said the teams’ 12 practice fields will be ready for their arrival in mid-February. The stadium, which is a bit behind schedule, will still be a work in progress then but will be finished by Feb. 28.

The public multipurpose fields and city park, on the south end of the site, also will be complete by then, Kibbe said.

Commissioner Shelley Vana said she’s hoping the Atlanta Braves will be impressed enough by the $148.5 million complex to also build a stadium, at John Prince Park in Lake Worth. Nearby businesses are hoping for that, she said.

Kibbe replied that he’s friends with the Braves’ executive staff. “If there’s anything we could do on that, we’d love to do it,” he said.

We’ll have a complete story this weekend.

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A worker waves while brushing a coat of black paint on a backstop mast Tuesday morning.

City board calls S. Dixie project “sore thumb,” approves anyway

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Artist’s rendering of Prospect Place project at South Dixie Highway and Albemarle

A torn Planning Board Tuesday night recommended in favor of the five-tower Prospect Place project on South Dixie Highway, even though members said it would stick out “like a sore thumb” amid single-family-home neighborhoods and be visible from as far away as downtown and Palm Beach.

After five hours of discussion, the board overwhelmingly approved land-use waivers requested for the project, saying that if they didn’t, the property owner would have the right to develop something less attractive.

The project, on the site of a near-vacant office complex 3111 S. Dixie, calls for five 170-foot-tall towers, spaced 60 feet apart, with a total of 300 condominiums. They would rise behind a line of one-story shops at S. Dixie and Albemarle Road, between the Prospect Park historic neighborhood to the east and Prospect Heights to the west.

Dozens of residents came to oppose the 9-acre project by 3111 Prospect Place Equities LLC, saying it would create cut-through traffic, cast shadows, block views and tower obtrusively above their single-family homes.

Several planning board members agreed the proposal didn’t fit in, and some noted it might set a precedent for the eventual redevelopment of the Rich’s Ice Cream and Palm Beach Post sites just to the north. Nonetheless, they said, zoning already in place from prior decades would give the owner the right to build an even more troubling project if this one weren’t approved.

With the Planning Board’s positive recommendation, the city commission will make the final decision whether to allow the project.

Downtown board shoots down West Palm’s waterfront office skyscraper plan

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West Palm Beach’s Downtown Action Committee voted resoundingly against a plan that would let office developers crash through the 5-story height cap on the city’s waterfront and go as high as 30 stories.

Dozens of residents poured into the city hall auditorium to oppose the plan, saying it would jam downtown roads, block views and kill development elsewhere downtown.

It ain’t over yet, though. The plan comes before the Planning Board for its recommendation tonight, Tuesday, and goes to the city commission for an initial vote on Nov. 7.

The plan, drafted by city development staff, aimed to preserve a handful of historic churches by letting them sell off doubled development rights attached to their properties. Developers buying the rights could apply them to sites on other properties from Datura Street to Okeechobee Boulevard, east of Olive Avenue, and build 30-story towers where current zoning only allows 5 stories. The idea is to create an incentive to build luxury office towers, which business development officials say the city sorely lacks.

City staffers said the new buildings would be taller but thinner, and in most cases would have less square footage than what’s currently allowed.

But many at the meeting, including developer Jeff Greene, who is planning two towers several blocks back from the waterfront, said the dramatic change would hurt the city’s charm and gridlock roads in the most trafficky part of the city. It would block condo views and their property values, they said.

The change also would kill voters’ desire for lower buildings close to the waterfront and harm prospects for developing areas farther back, where city incentives already have attracted two luxury office projects, including Greene’s at 550 Quadrille, which he said is just three months from laying its foundation.

A handful of speakers supported the project. “I’m  not afraid of the height or the growth,” said Realtor Samantha Curry. “We need a thriving downtown, we need Class-A office space. Change is a good thing. We need to be adjusting with the times.”

But she was far outnumbered. “Do we need to change the feeling of our waterfront,” one said, “and add additional hi-rises there that will just congest it and take away from beauty of the waterfront, when we want to bring people in?”

The Downtown Action Committee voted 6-1 against the height change, with only member Brian Cheguis voting for it. Some who voted against indicated their reason was not opposition to hi-rises but that the city had not done enough to inform residents about the project or given them time to voice their opinions on it.

The board’s chairperson, Roger Janssen, was absent but submitted a letter that was read into the record, opposing the proposal.

While the board considered incentive districts and Downtown Master Plan (DMP) amendments in the past, Janssen wrote, “this request to allow 30-story structures in a 5-story district is extremely excessive and is in blatant disregard to the DMP.”

He noted that the original language of the Downtown Master Plan sought to “ensure that building construction is predictable in order to secure real estate value, that new buildings be compatible with each other and within the existing urban fabric while also relating to the pedestrian.”

“If we entertain such drastic changes…at the request of developers, we risk undermining the predictability that has been created by the DMP,” Janssen wrote. ” We will have both current property owners and potential investors question whether they want to buy, hold, or wait for the next 600 percent height limit increase.”

Major West Palm Beach development proposals on agenda Tuesday

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Prospect Place proposal for South Dixie Highway, south of Rich’s Ice Cream.

These major changes are up for consideration by two city boards tomorrow:

  • Five proposed condo towers across South Dixie Highway from the Prospect Park historic neighborhood of single-family homes.
  • A proposed incentive plan that would allow 30-story office towers on a section of downtown waterfront currently limited to five stories.

The Downtown Action Committee meets at 9 a.m. in City Hall and has on its agenda city planners’ proposal for an incentive plan to lure luxury office tower developers to West Palm Beach’s waterfront.

The city Planning Board also is scheduled to discuss that issue, at 6 p.m. at City Hall, as well as the Prospect Place proposal for condo towers on South Dixie, south of Belvedere Road.

The development proposal calls for five 170-foot-tall towers, spaced 60 feet apart, with a total of 300 condominiums.