Debate on mall site plan not over

By Sarah Stover
Staff writer
Posted: 2007 Jul 06 - 01:12

SINGER ISLAND - Catalfumo Construction is forging ahead with plans to develop the Ocean Mall on Singer Island, but residents, city councilors, and the city redevelopment agency want some questions answered first.

A public meeting at the Hilton Hotel on Singer Island on June 29 was held to discuss phase one of the redevelopment, which is a 60,000 square-foot retail building that will have three or four restaurants in it, said Joey Eichner, a senior vice president at Palm Beach Gardens-based Catalfumo.

The retail building is one story. Current Ocean Mall tenants have been invited to have their shops in the new building, he said.

However, the retail element of the plan was almost secondary to the discussion that ensued. There were many more questions about a space titled "future hotel site."

The site plan showed the retail buildings split by a concrete walkway that spans the length of the parking lot to the beach. A parking lot dotted with several trees would be on the south side, along Ocean Avenue in front of the retail stores. A green block on the northern side of the property was labeled "future hotel site." The beach area was dotted with trees as well.

Councilman Jim Jackson, who represents Singer Island, questioned the need for a hotel.

"There are very few people that want a hotel or anything going out there. They put us in office and we must do what they want us to do," said Mr. Jackson.

The main problem with accepting the site plan with a hotel on it is that Catalfumo is still suing the city of Riviera Beach and Singer Island residents Dawn Pardo, Diana DiMeo, Kathy Groover, Draga Lindblom and Gordon Rowse over the validation of a referendum that passed in the March election.

The five residents were on a petition committee, and collected signatures to put the length of the Ocean Mall lease and a height restriction for buildings constructed on the March ballot. The majority of residents voted for a 50-year lease, instead of the 99-year lease Catalfumo wanted for financing reasons, and a height restriction of five stories for any building constructed on the Ocean Mall property.

Catalfumo's plans had included a 28-story mixed-use building.

The problem is, if Catalfumo wins the lawsuit, and the referendums are deemed not valid, the developer will be allowed to build the 28-story building, said Councilwoman Lynn Hubbard.

Councilman Cedrick Thomas told Larry Smith, the attorney representing Catalfumo, and other representatives from the developer's office that unless Catalfumo drops the lawsuits, he will not work with them on this project.

Mr. Smith, Mr. Eichner and other Catalfumo representatives would only say the slated future hotel site was in phase two of construction, and that is not what they are looking at right now.

If the retail portion of the redevelopment plan or phase one gets approved, work will begin shortly.

"We'd like to be able to break ground around the first of the year," said Mr. Eichner.

It would take about nine months to complete the retail building, he said.

The city's planning and zoning board will review the site plan, and discuss it at a meeting in July, said city manager Bill Wilkins.

Prior to the June 29 meeting, Mr. Eichner made a presentation on the site plan to the Riviera Beach City Council, sitting as the CRA board, on June 27.

The plan went before the CRA before it went to planning and zoning, but the CRA did not have to vote on it, since it will go to the planning and zoning board for review anyway. It will come back to the CRA when the review is completed. The CRA had requested that before the plan went before the P&Z board, a copy of their comments would go with it.