Waterfront proposals sought again
RIVIERA BEACH — Developers will get another chance to turn the city's blighted waterfront into a dazzling destination for tourists and local residents.
The city council, sitting also as the redevelopment board, unanimously approved soliciting developers to make over the municipal marina and several surrounding properties. The decision is yet another attempt by the city to jump-start its downtown waterfront project.
"We want to see responsible redevelopment," Chairman Cedrick Thomas said. "We feel we're making a conscious decision."
But some residents felt the council was rushing the proposal. They charged that the public didn't have enough time to review the proposal.
"I think this is too much to grasp in one night," resident Angela Wynn said. "Give us some time to read this."
Business owner Mike Mahoney said the council was sending the wrong message. He stressed it should want the community's backing.
"It just doesn't seem like you're listening to the public," said Mahoney, who owns Dee's T-Shirts just north of the project. "I just don't want us to fail. I'm tired of failing."
Councilwoman Dawn Pardo defended endorsing the proposal. She said the public would have ample opportunity to comment on the project at subsequent meetings.
"Don't think because we're trying to put this document on the street that it's the end of the public input," Pardo said. "Nothing is set in stone."
Dubbed the "Marina District," the proposal also calls for building a public market, overhauling Bicentennial Park and relocating Newcomb Hall, a community center used for public gatherings. Developers also will be asked to revamp Spanish Courts, a cluster of aging motel cottages that sit on prime land just north of the Port of Palm Beach.
Developers can pick up information June 30, and have until Sept. 2 to return their proposals to the Community Redevelopment Agency. A week later, on Sept. 10, the council is scheduled to pick the winning proposal.
The proposed Marina District is on 15 acres, bounded by 16th Street on the north and 11th Street on the south, between the Intracoastal Waterway and Broadway. This proposal, the first to emerge from the city's new redevelopment master plan, has been reduced from a 400-acre plan offered in 2005.
The former plan, which called for shops, restaurants, condos, an aquarium and a hotel, never materialized. The loss of eminent domain powers, legal challenges by property owners and the dwindling real estate market contributed to its failure.
Viking Inlet Harbor Properties, a New Jersey yacht maker that won the project in 2005, will bid on the latest plan, said Mike Clark, president of Viking Associates, its real estate arm.
"I think we are all looking for the same end ... to put a shovel in the ground, create some jobs," Clark said. "We still need an economic engine to drive the redevelopment of the entire city."
Riviera offers up revised waterfront
It's a far cry from the failed 400-acre plan city officials issued in 2005.
"We still think the redevelopment of Riviera Beach is very much a reality that can be achieved," said Floyd Johnson, executive director of the city's Community Redevelopment Agency.
City officials believe the Tiki Seafood Grill, at the marina on 13th Street, will be part of the redevelopment, Johnson said. The Tiki's lease with the city expired in 2007. There are two possible options: the city could renegotiate a new lease or the restaurant could team up with a developer pursuing the project.
The public gets its first peek at the proposal 5:30 p.m. today at the CRA meeting. An hour later, the CRA commission will switch hats, becoming the city council in order to approve the redevelopment board's decision. The back-to-back vote is necessary for the plan to move forward with the blessings of the CRA and the city.
Developers will have until Sept. 2 to submit responses to the plan. A week later, the council is scheduled to pick a developer and start negotiating a contract. City officials hope to have the deal finalized by Nov. 12.
The proposal is Riviera Beach's latest attempt to redevelop its waterfront. City officials returned to the drawing board last year, after former Mayor Michael Brown's plan fell apart due to a series of factors including the loss of eminent domain and the eroding real estate market.
In February, the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council rewrote the CRA's master plan, changing the focus from a large project overseen by a master developer to an incremental approach, using several developers. The marina proposal is the first project to emerge from the new master plan.
"It's a significant first step," Johnson said. "We hope it will attract a number of serious developers."
In 2005, Riviera Beach officials thought the city was well on its way to turning its downtown into a dazzling waterfront. That September, the council chose Viking Inlet Harbor Properties, a New Jersey yacht maker, to redevelop 400 acres of blight into shops, restaurants, condos, a hotel and aquarium.
The plan drew the likes of Wayne Huizenga Jr., who went on a land-buying binge of properties near the Intracoastal. Huizenga continues to hold significant land holdings in the redevelopment area.
By 2006, however, the Viking plan was in jeopardy because state lawmakers made it illegal for governments to use eminent domain for economic purposes. Unable to condemn private property for the redevelopment, the city couldn't get Viking enough land to do the project.
After being stalled for two years, the city and Viking finally dissolved the master developer agreement in March. Viking must now compete for the right to redevelop the marina, despite already spending some $50 million on buying land throughout the former redevelopment area.