Riviera OKs mall proposal that angers Singer Island

RIVIERA BEACH The city council approved a deal in its $2.4 billion waterfront redevelopment Wednesday night that guarantees two things: The dilapidated Ocean Mall gets redeveloped, and Singer Island residents are angry.

The project is the first major effort to materialize among the city, the community redevelopment agency and a developer. It requires conditions that Singer Island residents vehemently oppose: leasing the city's 11 acres of beachfront property for 99 years and building a Marriott hotel/condo that's 300 feet tall.

Although residents packed council chambers, their protests failed to persuade the board. Sitting as both the council and the CRA board, the group voted 4-1, with Councilman Jim Jackson dissenting, to agree to terms that move the project to a final agreement among the city, the CRA and developer Ocean Mall Redevelopment.

"I think it's time to move," said Councilwoman Norma Duncombe. "It's time to stop fighting."

Ocean Mall Redevelopment consists of Catalfumo Construction, Marriott Vacation Club International, Andrew Brock and Boca Raton developer Norton Herrick. It's the first deal brought to the board by California consultant Bernard Kinsey, the city's lead negotiator in the redevelopment effort.

Joey Eichner, a senior vice president with Catalfumo, said there is still time to reach some compromises with Singer Island on the plan.

"We're far from finalizing the plan," Eichner said after the council's vote. "We're hoping this project can bring the community together."

That's going to require a lot of work, especially after some Singer Island residents told the council that supporting the project would prompt lawsuits. Residents such as William Contole believe that the city charter limits the lease to 50 years and the only way it can be extended is by referendum.

Eichner said the plan calls for an initial 50-year lease and a guaranteed renewal for another 49 years. It's the only way the $280 million project can be financed, he said.

Tony Gigliotti, chairman of the Singer Island Civic Association, said the council's support of the project betrayed the group's trust. Gigliotti said the civic association has supported the city's redevelopment under the condition that the Ocean Mall would be rebuilt based on a low-density village concept.

Instead, the project calls for 125 hotel rooms and 250 resort condominiums housed in a 300-foot-high building. About 60,000 square feet of shops and restaurants would replace the mall, which was built in the 1970s.

"We do not want a project of this magnitude on Singer Island," Gigliotti said.

The city began leasing the beachfront property to the Brock family in 1972. The 50-year lease has been controversial because residents have complained that the Brocks neglected the Ocean Mall, allowing it to become an eyesore after Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne damaged it.

In July, the city forced Andrew Brock to demolish the northern portion of the mall to avoid being fined.