FPL breaks ground on hurricane response center

The facility, built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane, adds to FPL’s emergency capabilities by bringing its power delivery operations under a single roof.

Florida Power & Light Company broke ground Wednesday for a hurricane-hardened emergency control center in West Palm Beach.

The  storm center at 4233 Upthegrove Lane, adjacent to the company’s existing command center, is meant to leverage advanced technologies to ensure reliability and more efficient communication, collaboration and response during emergency events, FPL said.



Line for ballpark tickets started 6:30 a.m.

Baseball tickets went on sale Saturday for Ballpark of the Palm Beaches spring training games and some fans arrived before sunrise at the ticket booth.

“The first lady showed up at 6:30, decked out head-to-foot in Cardinals gear,” ballpark General Manager Brady Ballard said.

The single-game tickets went on sale at Rapids Water Park, a mile-and-a-half north of the ballpark, as the spring training complex is still under construction.

By time the booth opened at 9 a.m., a lot of Yankees’ and Red Sox fans were lining up, and ballpark officials had donuts and coffee for all who waited.

The Washington Nationals, who will occupy the complex with the Houston Astros, had their official marketing vehicle, the Natmobile, on hand.

The Natmobile

The stadium has a capacity of 7,500 and it’s not sold out for the month-long spring training season, which starts Feb. 28. But tickets are selling fast and choices are becoming “more limited by the day,” Ballard said.

Prices range from $15 on the Banana Boat lawn, to home plate box seats on marquis games that cost more than $65.

For information, visit Ballparkpalmbeaches.com.


Two West Palm city-improvement proposals finalists in Knight Cities Challenge

Chris Roog

Two West Palm Beach proposals to make the city a better place were among 144 named finalists in this year’s Knight Cities Challenge.

The local finalists, chosen from 4,500 applicants, are:

12 for 12: Pop-up to Rent by city of West Palm Beach (submitted by Christopher Roog, director of economic development for the city): Expanding on the success of a pilot pop-up gallery project by inviting local talent to activate 12 empty storefront spaces as an economic catalyst for West Palm Beach.

The Tie Beam by city of West Palm Beach (submitted by Sybille Welter, coordinator of the city’s Art in Public Places program): Connecting east and west downtown residents by creating a public space parallel to the railroad tracks that encourages pedestrian activity and integrates public art, transportation and urban design.

The competition, open to innovators in the 26 cities where the Knight Foundation invests, asks applicants, “What’s your best idea to make cities more successful? …The idea should focus on one or all of three key drivers of city success, talent, opportunity and engagement, as outlined above.”

The winning projects, to be announced this spring, receive a share of up to $5 million.

Roog said he’d been working with urban planning firm Gehl Architects, gathering data about downtown activity and in particular about retail spaces that weren’t active. He came up with the idea to ask landlords to donate the spaces for use by small businesses or start-ups to occupy the slots on a temporary basis, which, with a marketing effort, “maybe have an event with some food trucks, some cool lighting,” to help activate the street and give the start-ups a shot at success.




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

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.

5-tower Prospect Place project up for city approval today


A big turnout is expected at City Hall today to oppose the Prospect Place project, a five-tower condo complex planned for 3111 S. Dixie Highway, a quarter-mile south of Belvedere Road.

The 14-story towers are proposed to replace a mostly vacant, one- and two-story office complex. In addition to the 300 condos, plans call for six one-story retail buildings lining South Dixie in front of the towers.

What’s before the city commission, which meets at 5 p.m., is a requested zoning change to allow residential use of the 9.3-acre site.

City officials say that even without the approval, the property owner, 311 Prospect Place Equities LLC, could build a project of similar density or intensity. But many residents, including members of nonprofit Citizens for Thoughtful Growth, say the project would tower over the houses in the surrounding neighborhoods.

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

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.

Positioning downtown Jaguar dealership for development


Jaguar Palm Beach, the prominently located dealership at Okeechobee Boulevard and South Dixie Highway, has asked the city to include the property within the city’s Downtown Master Plan. Myers Auto Group LLC, which owns the 2.5-acre property, wants to rezone it to allow a 15-story, 421-unit condo tower.

There are no immediate plans to develop such a building, but a lawyer for the company said owner Stephen Myers wants to position the property so that, should he sell it five or more years from now, a prospective buyer will have more certainty about what can be built there.

The site, with a 53,563-square-foot building sits just outside the Downtown Master Plan boundaries and under current zoning the site would allow 80,000 square feet. If the requested change were approved, the owner would be entitled to build a 402,000-square-foot tower.

The site borders the Woodlawn Cemetery to the south but other properties near it are within the Downtown Masterplan and are zoned to allow buildings from 20 to 25 stories, said Joseph Verdone, certified planner and government consultant for Myers Auto Group.

…More details coming in the Palm Beach Post later this week….

Demolition starts on Carefree Theater


[Update:  The city’s development services director, Rick Greene, said the proposal for the site is much bigger than West Palm’s land use code allows. “Staff is not allowing them to move forward,” Greene said Wednesday. “The project will have to be made smaller or the Code revised to allow them to go higher than what the current regulations allow.”]

A track hoe began crunching walls of the old Carefree Theatre on South Dixie Highway this week, as a developer seeks city approval for Carefree 6 @ Flamingo, a mixed-use project with an art-house cinema.

The building served as an entertainment venue for six decades but has been vacant since 2005.

Film producer and distributor Charles S. Cohen, who is a real estate developer, plans a project on the site, between Flamingo Drive and Cordova Road, that will include six theaters, luxury apartments, restaurants, shops and underground parking.


Initial strike to the Carefree.

Track hoe about to wail away at the west wall of the vacant Carefree Theatre.



Down to the bell for Greene School opening


Billionaire Jeff Greene’s new elementary school on South Dixie Highway, scheduled to open Wednesday, doesn’t have its certificate of occupancy but school spokesman Elliot Cohen said it received its temporary C-O from the city late Tuesday afternoon, in time for an evening open house meeting with parents.

The Pre-K-to 4th-grade school, which has about 50 students enrolled, was expected to open on time, Cohen said.

Contractors have been working down to the wire to get the former car dealership transformed in time for opening day. But according to the city’s Development Services Department, by mid-afternoon Greene’s people hadn’t yet requested the city inspections required for a C-O. No C-O, no classes.

Development Services Director Rick Greene, no relation to Jeff, said his department was ready to jump when the developer said the building is ready, but inspections of the various building systems take time and the clock was ticking down toward the scheduled opening.

At 5:10 p.m.,Cohen called to say the school had received its temporary C-O.


Restoration Hardware expands plan for CityPlace ‘mansion’



UPDATE: Change was approved by City Commission.

There may be more room at the ‘mansion.’

Restoration Hardware is asking for city approval today to expand its mansion-like store planned in the Okeechobee Boulevard median opposite CityPlace.

The home furnishings chain plans to add a 4th-floor cafe and additional parking and a decorative fountain on the ground floor of the site at 560 Okeechobee. The cafe increases the square footage of the furniture gallery to 57,696, up from 51,183.

Restoration (2)