West Palm plans to pick up and move apartments

Gardenia Building
316 Gardenia St., West Palm Beach

Usually people travel to hotels and not the other way around.

But West Palm Beach’s Community Redevelopment Agency hopes to acquire a two-story apartment building at 316 Gardenia St. downtown and move it a mile northwest to 801 Fourth St., where it would be part of a bed and breakfast hotel.

It’s all part of the agency’s effort to revive the Northwest neighborhood by attracting African-American tourism, playing off the historic Alice Moore home, the Storm of ’28 site and the Sunset Lounge, where Ellington and Basie once played.

CRA officials say the owners of a two-story apartment building at 316 Gardenia were considering razing the 94-year-old structure to develop the land. Meanwhile the former Moore home, at 801 Fourth, was being considered for use as a bed and breakfast for cultural tourists, but with only three rooms wasn’t big enough.

So, provided a deal can be worked out with the Gardenia owners, the CRA wants to move the Gardenia building to Fourth Street, since its additional 12 rooms would make the B&B more viable.

The CRA would require that the owners, the Johnson family, pay for the move, which could cost about $200,000, CRA Executive Director Jon Ward said. The city would not close on the deal until after the building was tented — it’s infested with bees — and until after it survived the move intact, he said.

Renovations are expected to cost between $900,000 and $1.2 million, plus $250,000 already set aside in the budget for foundation work and repairs.

Ward said the move could take place within 90 days, and would take a day to complete. “I think it would be fun to watch,” he said.

The commissioners approved the project unanimously Monday.







West Palm rule encourages rooftop parking murals

A rooftop parking deck in Miami.

With high-rises springing up downtown, West Palm’s city staff is looking to improve architectural aesthetics from an often overlooked perspective — from above.

The city commission Monday approved a proposal to allow rooftop parking decks as long as developers adorned them with murals or trees.
The decks would either have to have 30 percent of the surface covered with trees or other irrigated plantings or screening structures such as trellises, or they’d have to be entirely covered with an artistic design, which would be coated for waterproofing and sun resistance. If they chose that scene-from-above option, they’d have to compensate for the lack of rooftop landscaping by adding more at ground level.
The design wouldn’t reduce a building’s other public art requirements.

Historic home tour set for Grandview Heights

 View More: http://comcapphoto.pass.us/grandviewheights

The Grandview Heights Historic District will be host its 17th Historic Home Tour on Sunday, March 20, from 3 to 7 pm.

Grandview Heights is one of the oldest neighborhoods in West Palm Beach. Located within walking distance to City Place and the downtown Clematis Street Historic District, it has become one of the most desirable residential neighborhoods in West Palm Beach due to its location and eclectic, old South Florida atmosphere.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places with the oldest section of the neighborhood having been established in 1912, this neighborhood has one of the highest concentrations of historically significant architecture in the city, such as Spanish Mission, Mediterranean Revival, Florida Bungalow, Art Deco and Dutch Colonial Revival.

This year’s tour features historic and new homes of various styles and in different stages of restoration.  A highlight of the tour this year is a collection of premiere vintage vehicles from Ragtops Motorcars. These cars and motorcycles, along with their historic details, will be displayed at homes throughout the tour.

There’ll be a complimentary block party including a plated meal presented by Aioli and live entertainment by Lotsa Papa, an upbeat Americana style full-band. Trolley service is also included in ticket pricing.

Tickets can be booked online at historicgrandview2016.eventbrite.com or by calling 561-877-1221. On the day of the tour, tickets can be purchased in front of the Armory Art Center in Howard Park. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 on the day of the tour. Visit                            www.grandviewheights.net for  information.


CityPlace to replace axed trees

CityPlace trees

CityPlace is working on a plan to replace some of the landscape buffer decimated by chainsaws a few weeks ago, between its garage and Florida East Coast’s railway tracks.

Much of the previous landscaping was on land that CityPlace had leased in the FEC right-of-way, a strip over which the city arborist had no jurisdiction to protect. With the lease expiring and All Aboard Florida’s need for more room, a stand of mature palms bit the buzz saw.

But according to the arborist, West Palm Beach Landscape Planner Ray Caranci, there’s a six-foot-wide space between the garage off Quadrille Boulevard and the FEC right-of-way that does fall within the city jurisdiction, and that’s where the new plantings will go.

“I’m working with CityPlace to try to get a landscape plan that will be able to restore some nice landscaping to buffer that garage,” Caranci said Thursday.

Ray Caranci, West Palm Beach landscape planner


Video: Before he set car afire, Ellington breached City Hall security

A police officer tries to talk Douglas Ellington into leaving city hall (Videocommission chambers.

(Video by Tony Doris)

Douglas Ellington, the former sewage plant worker whom city officials say drove onto the property Monday and set his car on fire, is well known at City Hall, where officials already had stepped up security in light of his bursts through the metal detectors and an escalating email-writing campaign.

(On Tuesday, Ellington appeared before a judge and was ordered to have a mental evaluation.)

Ellington, 52, was escorted from a city commission meeting arrested Feb. 1, after seeking redress for his firing and refusing to leave until he got it.

The incident culminating in Douglas Ellington’s removal brought the meeting to a halt for about 10 minutes and led the mayor and two commissioners to leave the dais as it unfolded. After trying to persuade him to leave the auditorium and discuss his concerns in the hall, two West Palm Beach police officers secured his hands behind his back and walked him out.

That was his third trespassing arrest at City Hall in the space of a year.

Ellington being placed under arrest prior to being escorted from City Hall on Feb. 1. (TONY DORIS / The Palm Beach Post)

Prior to Monday, when another city commission meeting was scheduled to take place at 5 p.m., officials already had ordered additional police protection at the entry to City Hall.

It turned out the precautions were unneeded — Ellington never made it there. Monday morning he drove past the barbed-wire-lined gates of the West Palm Beach sewage plant, got out of his white SUV and set it on fire Monday morning, city officials say.

Ellington watched flames spread over the car, then officials said he told an employee standing nearby that he had placed bombs at both that sewage plant and the Riviera Beach Utility District, where he also worked until being fired a few weeks ago.

Ellington’s claims ignited chaos in the two cities.

Investigators evacuated everyone from the utility district, on Blue Heron Boulevard near Old Dixie Highway, and the East Central Regional Water Reclamation Facility, on Roebuck Road near Florida’s Turnpike, and searched for a bomb.

A device was found at the sewage plant, but it “turned out to be a hoax,” said Elliot Cohen, spokesman for the city of West Palm Beach.

Ellington was arrested shortly after the car fire. No one was hurt in the incident.

The Feb. 1 incident began just after 5 p.m., when Ellington, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, rose to address the commission during the public comment section of the meeting. Ellington said he believed his grandfather was killed at the hands of the government 78 years ago and that now he had been harmed and wanted the mayor’s support, as he had no legal means of redress.

After his three allotted minutes were up, the mayor declined to respond — the mayor and commissioners as a rule don’t respond to public comment at the meetings — and repeatedly asked him to step down from the lectern.

“The time has come for somebody to redress the harm,” Ellington said. “My family has suffered irreversible financial and emotional harm because they fail to recognize the information I brought to them.”

Ellington was calm and subdued but persistent. At one point as officers approached him and asked him to leave, he lifted open the sides of his gray hoodie to show them he was unarmed.

According to Green, Ellington worked at the city’s East Coast Regional Reclamation Facility, a sewage treatment plant near Roebuck Road, and was fired four or five years ago. “The bottom line is, he didn’t want to come back. We were having a disciplinary hearing but he didn’t want to come to it. He got bad legal advice. … He was terminated because he wouldn’t come back to his job. …

“He wants us to do something about it. We’ve met with him quite a few times. We’ve explained it to him.”

Mayor Jeri Muoio, expressing concern that Ellington might be released pending trial, said Monday afternoon that security again has been stepped up. She declined to provide details.

“It’s a sad situation,” the mayor said. “He’s a disturbed person.”

New rail crossing considered to help rush hour traffic cut through downtown

Driving downtown on Okeechobee Boulevard, or trying to.

West Palm officials hearing an earful about traffic tie-ups don’t have all the answers. But they are looking at one option that might ease rush hour congestion for commuters.

They’re asking the Florida Department of Transportation to consider adding a crossing to the Tri-Rail tracks off Australian Ave.

Right now, a lot of morning commuters take Okeechobee Boulevard to northbound Australian Avenue and then turn east on Banyan Boulevard to get downtown. But Banyan has become quite a bottleneck.

Rendering of the planned Transit-Oriented Development, known as the T-O-D. The contemplated crossing would be on the far left, cutting through from Australian Boulevard to Fern Street.

So the thinking is to add a crossing south of Banyan and the huge Transit-Oriented Development that’s being developed. That way, many commuters could turn off Australian and cross the tracks at Fern Street, without having to go all the way to Banyan.

Not a panacea for downtown traffic woes but it could provide relief, officials say — much needed at a time when a trainload of development is on the way downtown.

“Micro” apartments proposed for downtown

Greene Banyan
Developer Jeff Greene’s latest downtown project: 400 “micro units” planned for the corner of Banyan Boulevard and Rosemary Avenue.

With downtown coming to life these days, people in their 20’s want to live there but have a tough time affording rents that range past $1,800 a month for a typical 1,100-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment.

Jeff Greene says he has an answer for that.

The developer this week submitted plans for a 12-story apartment building at the corner of Banyan and Rosemary, that consists of “micro units.”

At about 450 square feet, the apartments will be less than half the size of a typical downtown one-bedroom — but at about half the rent. Greene says he plans to stuff the building with amenities to make up for the size of the units, such as common areas where renters can drink espresso and hang out.

He bought the 1.25-acre site, at 550 Banyan Blvd., in June 2014 for $3,477,500. It’s across the street from the police department, a block or so from Clematis Street, the train station, city hall and the courthouses and a few blocks from City Place.

Real estate investor Jeff Greene at the abandoned Sail Club on Executive Center Drive in West Palm Beach where Greene talked about his plans for the property Thursday, February 11, 2016. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Real estate developer Jeff Greene.

The building will house 400 apartments, with full kitchens and washer-dryers. Rents: roughly $995 to $1,200.

It’s being designed by Arquitectonica, the Miami firm that’s also designing the 30-story, two-tower office and hotel/condo

project he’s starting at 550 Quadrille Blvd., called One West Palm.

The micro units are not just for 20-somethings, he says. They could serve as inexpensive crash pads for attorneys or other professionals from Miami, for instance, who come to West Palm once in a while and want to be walking distance from everything. “It’s a cool pied a terre idea.”

“It’s meant to be luxury living but with smaller individual living spaces and great common areas,” he says. “It’s a trade-off.”