Ocean Mall developers seek a deal
giving them 99 years

RIVIERA BEACH The battle to revamp the Ocean Mall is back at city hall, with developers wanting a 99-year lease on the public beach, despite voter approval to limit such leases to 50 years.

Attorney Marc Sinensky, who represents Ocean Mall Redevelopment, sent a letter to the city this week that said developers are willing to accept a 50-year lease as long as they can get a 49-year extension on the $280 million deal. But they won't fight a five-story limit on the new development that voters also supported.


OMRD, led by builder Dan Catalfumo, struck a deal in December with the city to raze the 35-year-old Ocean Mall and replace it with shops, restaurants and a 28-story Marriott condo/hotel.

Some Singer Island and mainland residents opposed the deal and formed the Public Beach Coalition to fight it. The city and the coalition went to court, where a circuit judge sided with the coalition and allowed the group to put initiatives limiting the hotel height to five stories and beach leases to 50 years on the March ballot.

Voters overwhelmingly approved both measures, making them now a part of the city's charter. Sinensky wrote in his June 19 letter that the city could approve the 49-year extension without undoing the election results.

Sinensky and OMRD officials failed to return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment on Thursday.

Meanwhile, developer Norton Herrick, a partner in OMRD, has been meeting with Singer Island and mainland residents, trying to strike a deal. The negotiations have divided some Singer Island residents, who believe a compromise may jump-start the redevelopment.

Others think the extension goes against voters who passed the referendum and ousted the incumbent mayor and three council members who backed the original deal.

"We have reiterated to him (Herrick) numerous times that we remain committed to assuring that the will of the people, as expressed at the polls, will be carried out," Dawn Pardo, the coalition's chairwoman, said in a statement Thursday. Pardo also said Herrick told the group that he can't make a profit without a 99-year lease.

The city, the coalition and OMRD were scheduled for a court hearing on June 29, where developers planned to argue that the ballot questions weren't legal. OMRD offered the 49-year extension as a way to settle its lawsuit involving the city and the coalition.

Developers have asked that the judge postpone the hearing in order for OMRD to hold a 2 p.m. meeting at the Hilton Hotel on Singer Island with residents to discuss the Ocean Mall redevelopment.

Tony Gigilotti, chairman of the Singer Island Civic Association, warned at Wednesday night's council meeting not to ignore negotiating with the developers. Gigilotti said there is support on Singer Island and the mainland with giving OMRD a 50-year lease with the first rights to ask for a 49-year extension.

"If this council doesn't get it right and we lose this developer, it's over," said a frustrated Gigilotti, who was among those who have met with OMRD representatives over several weeks. "It is too difficult to do business in this city."

Council members, meanwhile, were reluctant to discuss the Ocean Mall deal at the meeting. An attempt by Councilman Jim Jackson to get the lease on the agenda failed for lack of a second.

At the end of the meeting, however, Councilwoman Norma Duncombe spoke in favor of the December deal, which provided black businesses a share of the construction and sales of the condos. She believes the newly elected council members aren't acting in the best interest of the city, but on behalf of those who put them in office.

Duncombe had City Manager Bill Wilkins remind her colleagues and the public that city is only getting about $20,000 annually on the current Ocean Mall lease. That's because it's based on terms that date to 1972.

Council Chairman Shelby Lowe, who was elected in March, made it clear that he wasn't going renege on his promise to voters.

"The people have spoken, and the referendum isn't negotiable," Lowe said. "We have to get past this lawsuit, and the 99 years is not a tool to use in this instance."



Legal Notice published in PB Post
Tuesday June 19, 2007
NO. 8514050


OCEAN MALL Please be advised that Catalfumo Construction proposes to redevelop the existing Ocean Mall that is located on Singer Island in Riviera Beach, Palm Beach County, Florida. The purpose of this notice is to inform you that Catalfumo -Construction will conduct a public meeting to discuss the proposed redevelopment plans with Singer Island condominium associations, homeowner associations, and the general public. The redevelopment plans call for the replacement of the existing Ocean Mall with 60,000 square feet of general commercial use, multi-family residential condominium, and a future hotel. You are hereby invited to participate in the public meeting, which will be held at the Hilton, 3700 North Ocean Drive. Singer Island 33404 on Friday. June 29, 2007 at 2:00 pm. PUB: The Palm Beach Post June 19 - 25, 2007