Firm scales back Riviera master plan
RIVIERA BEACH — An extreme makeover of the municipal marina and Bicentennial Park anchor a drastically reduced redevelopment plan proposed by the city's master developer.
The revised plan would cover only 26 acres, a sharp decrease from the 400 acres in the original plan. It still promises to make Riviera Beach an "international destination."
The plan comes two years after the city chose Viking Inlet Harbor Properties as master developer. The New Jersey yacht maker-turned-developer was charged with eliminating blight along the Intracoastal Waterway by building a new marina, hotel, restaurants, shops, condos and an aquarium.
But the loss of the ability to use eminent domain and the declining housing market have stalled the project for nearly 18 months.
On Tuesday, Viking submitted "conceptual plans" to the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) that call for redeveloping about 26 acres between Broadway and the Intracoastal, south of East 15th Street. Viking will present its revised plan at tonight's CRA meeting.
"We're not looking for a vote," said Mike Clark, president of Viking Associates, the yacht maker's real estate development arm. "We just want to expose our plan to the public."
It comes at a time when the CRA hired the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council to reevaluate the city's $2.4 billion waterfront redevelopment. Throughout October, the planning council will conduct a series of activities to involve the public in the reevaluation process.
Both the marina and park are located just south of Viking's yachting center. The downturn in the economy forced Viking to pursue developing the city-owned parcels, Clark said.
"In this market, we're not going to be able to attract a flag hotel," he said. "We're not going to be able to start construction and sell condos. The thing that's going to make this workable is creating Riviera Beach as a destination."
Clark envisions a mix of music, outdoor activities, restaurants, shops and businesses that will draw locals and tourists to the municipal marina and Bicentennial Park. In both instances, Viking will seek longterm leases of the public land.
While it's too early to determine the cost of the revised project, Clark said Viking is prepared to put $30 million worth of improvements into the marina. This year, Riviera Beach received $5 million to upgrade the marina through a countywide bond issue in which voters approved expanding public access to the waterfront.
In addition, the city began in June to clean up the marina. Some tenants haven't welcomed the effort because under the new lease, boat owners need $500,000 in liability and $500,000 in property insurance.
Tenants claim that the city's efforts were to drive them out of the marina in order to make way for the Viking deal. They also argue that the city's insurance coverage figures exceed the industry norm that runs from $100,000 to $300,000.
The city council is reviewing whether to reduce insurance coverage requirements or evict those tenants that fail to meet the new criteria.
Viking's revised plan calls for a host of major additions at the marina and the park. They include new floating docks, high-volume fuel docks, new bulkheads and a promenade.
At the park, the master developer will construct a beach, build an entertainment stage, and install landscaping, lighted paths and a boardwalk. That would be a vast improvement from the park's current condition, where drug deals happen and vagrants congregate.
The project will also feature a four-story parking garage, with boat storage and a swimming pool on the top floor, Clark said.
Subsequent phases of Viking's revised plan include building two 24-story towers and a parking garage on land it mostly owns south of 13th Street east of Broadway.
Under Viking's original plan, the master developer proposed expanding the city's marina, while either leasing it from the city or buying it. That plan called for relocating Bicentennial Park inland and dredging the old site to make room for more boat slips at the marina.
The original plan also included relocating U.S. 1 to provide more land to develop properties along the water. The revised plan keeps U.S. 1 intact, while keeping Bicentennial Park along the Intracoastal.
Revised plan in Riviera denounced
Selected in 2005 as the city's master developer, Viking Inlet Harbor Properties showed off its scaled-back plan to an audience that gave it mixed reviews.
The latest proposal calls for 26 acres to be developed instead of the original 400. The project is anchored by making over the municipal marina and Bicentennial Park.
While residents sounded off, the CRA made little comment except for Commissioner Jim Jackson, who spoke in favor of it.
The revised plan comes just after the CRA hired the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council to reevaluate the city's $2.4 billion redevelopment plan. Viking offered up its new plan as part of that reevaluation.
Most residents spoke against handing over the marina and park to Viking, saying the two public entities should remain in the hands of the city.
Some felt Viking took too long in coming to the table with a revision. In fact, resident Gerald Ward suggested that the CRA board vote to undo the original selection of the New Jersey yacht maker as master developer.
"We have an admitted boat builder with more pretty pictures tonight," Ward said. "It's time to take another course of action."
The revised plan comes after the original proposal has been stalled for 18 months. The loss of eminent domain and a weak economy kept the project in limbo.
Resident Tina White suggested that the CRA board open up the process for competitive bid.
Under Viking's latest plan, the developer wants to lease the marina and is prepared to make $30 million in improvements.
Viking did receive support from some residents and the Port of Palm Beach.
Dawn Pardo, a Singer Island resident who fought to limit redevelopment on the island, said Viking's revised plan was a good start.
"I think the plan looked great," said Pardo, chairwoman of the Public Beach Coalition, which opposed builder Dan Catalfumo's efforts to redevelop the Ocean Mall on Singer Island. "There was a lot of public access."
Mike Clark, Viking's president, said the goal is to make the project a regional and international destination. Although the project is drastically smaller than the original proposal, the hope is that getting the revised plan off the ground will stimulate other redevelopment, he said.
"You don't get too many swings at the brass ring," Clark said. "I think we have an opportunity now."