Developer to make changes at Ocean Mall

By Sarah Stover
Staff writer
Posted: 2007 Sep 21 - 01:16

SINGER ISLAND - The proposed plans for the Ocean Mall property were on the right track, but needed a little more work.

That was the sentiment of Riviera Beach's Planning and Zoning Board at its Sept. 13 meeting. The board asked representatives from Ocean Mall Redevelopment, the name for the group comprised of Palm Beach Gardens-based developer Dan Catalfumo's staff that is working on the property, to come back with revisions at its next meeting in two weeks.

OMRD representatives were at the meeting to get approval for an amendment that would join parts of the amphitheatre and beach with the mixed-use area and to turn the beach area into a general mixed-use area.

The original plan for the property was scrapped after residents voted in March to only allow a maximum of five stories.

Last year, a group of residents got petitions for two items, height limitation and length of lease, onto the ballot in the city's March election. The city's charter allows for a 50-year lease for the property, but the city had granted Catalfumo a 50-year lease with an automatic renewal of 49 years. Residents also wanted to put a limit of five stories on height of new buildings on the property so would still offer an ocean view from other areas in the city.

Residents voted in favor of the changes.

However, Catalfumo took the city, and the group of residents who were in charge of gathering signatures for the petitions, to court over the amendments, with the argument that some of the signatures were not those of Riviera Beach residents and were not gathered in the correct manor. Catalfumo still has a lawsuit pending against the city and the residents, which is a point of contention for residents, as well as some planning and zoning board members.

Although they are still in litigation, Catalfumo's staff has changed their plans to work with the new restrictions.

In drawings shown at the meeting, the area for shops and restaurants, which is where the current mall is now, will only be two stories. The retail area will be two stories because the developer wanted to keep the south side of the property low because of the potential for the hotel.

The developer needed to keep the potential ocean view for guests, said Joey Eichner, a senior vice president at Catalfumo.

Although some residents thought the proposed mall was boring, they were appeased with some of the factors.

"We're slowly moving Catalfumo in (a better) direction," said Bill Contol, president of Citizens for Responsible Growth, a non-profit corporation in Singer Island.

Edward Kunuty, chairman of the Planning and Zoning board, agreed, but there were still some concerns and questions, mainly about roads and traffic.

Another concern was that the area largely responsible for all of the protests - the north side of the project where the hotel is supposed to go - was not shown or represented in detail. The proposed hotel is slated for an area toward the north end of the current mall, but to the south or further away from the beach.

"The plan isn't showing the design. We have a block that we don't know what it is - the board ought to require Catalfumo to fill in the blanks," said Mr. Contol.

Councilman Jim Jackson, who represents the Singer Island area, agreed. He stated that he supported the ideas for the businesses and parking on the beach, but wants to know what will be in phase two, which contains the planned hotel.

However, board members, such as Margaret Shepherd and Shalondra March, and some residents felt that should not impede the process for phase one.

Neither did the representatives for Catalfumo.

"If the question is the hotel, we'll deal with it when the time comes," said Mr. Eichner.

Others, such as board member and Singer Island resident Caryn St. John felt voting on the plans should be postponed until the lawsuits are settled. She also stated she would like to see the area be included in any discussions held by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, a not-for-profit organization that assists local governments with planning and growth-management programs, that will begin next month.

The Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council will gather opinions from residents and city staff regarding what they want in the areas slated for redevelopment in their city.

In an effort to appease the board, the representatives from Catalfumo offered to put the boards' concerns in the agreement as "conditions of approval," but Mr. Kunuty said there were too many to do that.

In the end, the board did not vote on phase one, but unanimously voted for Catalfumo to bring the plans back with their suggestions addressed at the next meeting on Sept. 27 at 6:30 p.m.