Waterfront tower plan gets hearing; two commissioners ask for other options

One Flagler (artist’s rendering)

City staff pressed its plan to rewrite downtown zoning to accommodate Related Cos.’ proposal for a 25-story tower at the First Church of Christ, Scientist site.

Addressing the commission and a polite crowd of 200 packing the city hall auditorium, Development Services Director Rick Greene countered arguments that the proposed creation of an Okeechobee Business District, allowing Related’s One Flagler project, would turn West Palm Beach into another jam-packed Miami. “Apples and oranges,” he said.

Mayor Jeri Muoio also sought to address concerns that allowing Related’s tower would open the door to other towers blocking off the city’s waterfront. “As long as I am mayor, we will not let that happen,” she said.

The city’s existing handful of office towers bring in millions in annual property taxes but they’re full, so major companies are going to Boca Raton, Greene said. He also insisted that the proposed reworking of zoning districts would not lead to more waterfront towers, currently restricted by a voters’ referendum to five stories.

But commissioner Shanon Materio and Commission President Cory Neering said they wanted city staff to explore and the commission to discuss other options to preserve the church and the waterfront.

“Is (creating the Okeechobee Business District) the only way to achieve that? Neering asked afterward. “I feel boxed in with that as the only option. Not that we don’t eventually get there, but I’d like to think of other options.”

Materio said Related’s plan amounted to “spot zoning” and she recommended another option: Have the city buy the church site for a public use other than a skyscraper, perhaps selling some of the land for a smaller development, to recoup the city’s money.

Christian Science churches, many of them in historic buildings like this one, are being re-purposed all over the country, she said. “There are so many other things we could do with that site.”

City commissioner Keith James argued that the city could be putting itself in legal jeopardy by interfering with Related’s contract to buy the property. Related’s attorney, Harvey Oyer agreed.

But attorney Gregory Kino, representing Trump Plaza Condominium Association, disagreed.

“The City could put an end to this discussion immediately by telling Related that they are not going to support such an extreme proposal and they need to go the Quadrille Boulevard corridor where they built the last successful Class A building in the City or other places that the City’s Master Plan consultant recommended and the City agreed when it was last updated in 2009,” Kino said. “The City has every right not to entertain this proposal initiated and backed by Related solely for their own gain. The contract would go away on its own.”

CHECK BACK WITH THE PALM BEACH POST LATER THIS WEEK FOR A MORE DETAILED STORY.

Transit Village deal fails to win West Palm support

Artist’s rendering of the proposed Transit Village development, at the corner of Tamarind Avenue and Banyan Boulevard.

An office/apartment/hotel project linking Tri-Rail, bus, trolley and car commuters while promising 4,000 jobs, educational programs, local business incentives and home ownership help to abutting poor neighborhoods crashed and burned Monday, with city commissioners squeamish about the developer’s request for a subsidy from property taxes generated by the project.

Developer Michael Massanoff and his team sought to make a full presentation to the mayor and city commissioners, who were gathered as the Community Redevelopment Agency, to explain how he’d revised the plan and reduced the requested tax subsidy in response to criticisms they made in January. But Mayor Jeri Muoio, though complimenting the project itself, sharply limited his time to explain the proposal and the numbers. Two motions to approve the deal didn’t even get a second.

Massanoff is left to try renegotiating a deal for city staff to again present to the board. Or, the disappointed developer noted afterward, since the land is owned by the county, he could just work out a development deal with the county and leave the city out of the loop.

City officials noted that the $25 million in tax increment financing he was willing to accept was 12 times more than the previous highest amount given a developer. Massanoff countered that his transit-oriented project would create public benefits that others do not.

We’ll have a more detailed story this week in The Palm Beach Post, on the deal and what went wrong.

West Palm in code name mode as companies shop the city

The city is considering dishing out about $100,000 to attract two unidentified firms, one in aerospace/aviation, the other in life sciences.

City commission votes are scheduled for July 17 for “Project Falcon” and “Project Cell,” respectively.

According to the commission agenda, Project Falcon is the code name for an aerospace or aviation firm that wants to relocate to the city with 450 jobs and create an additional 200 over the next five years.

The jobs would have an average salary of about $66,000.

The state would pay the biggest part of the incentives package, $640,000, while the county would match the city’s $80,000.

The same company was recently shopping locations in Palm Beach Gardens, as well.

Project Cell, meanwhile, is the code name for a life sciences firm that would move seven jobs to West Palm Beach and add 15 more over the next year, with an average salary of $76,000.

The city would pay $18,000 in incentives for Project Cell and Florida would pay $72,000.

FOR MORE DETAILS….http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/why-west-palm-considering-paying-100k-lure-two-new-companies/Px13TGtUOuukCYCeHSGrbJ/

Thousands pack West Palm waterfront for fireworks

Congrats to West Palm Beach’s events staff for packing the waterfront with happy revelers on the 4th. Here are a few photos of the fireworks display over the Lake Worth Lagoon: