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Atlantic Plaza II gets first approvals from Delray Beach

By Palm Beach

DELRAY BEACH — Atlantic Plaza II passed its height and density tests Tuesday but still faces one more hurdle before it can become reality.

Atlantic Plaza II is the $200 million mix of shops, restaurants, condos and office space proposed for nine acres slotted on the north side of East Atlantic Avenue between the Intracoastal Waterway and North Federal Highway. Its developers are vitamin magnate Carl DeSantis and the Edwards Cos. of Columbus, Ohio.

After about three hours of sometimes heated, sometimes unusual debate, Delray Beach city commissioners voted 3-2 to allow the project to exceed the city’s normal maximum building height of 48 feet and normal maximum density of 30 residential units per acre.

The project has attracted strong opposition particularly from residents of nearby neighborhoods who see it as too big for Delray, and out of character with the surroundings. Opponents included a group called the “Raging Grannies” that literally sung their protest to the tune of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Others used more conventional methods to get their point across.

Resident Steve Blum, president of a homeowners association in the area called the project “bloated.”

“This is a travesty, a crying shame,” Blum said. “We are outraged.”

Proponents, however, cited the need to redevelop the site, now occupied by a rather architecturally undistinguished collection of shops and offices. They also cited the economic potential of the Atlantic II, which includes 80,000 square feet of class A office space, something doesn’t exist in the downtown.

One resident called it “a gift to the city. A private, $200 million development in Delray Beach that will reap benefits for years to come.”

Others urged the city to take a middle course and delay a vote on the project until after the March municipal election when three of the five commission seats are up.

Mayor Woodie McDuffie, who grew up in Delray Beach, recalled the city’s agricultural past, a time when the city was so slow that it was jokingly called Dullray, and its eventual transformation into the vibrant city it now is. Despite its growth, one problem that plagued Delray in McDuffie’s youth it still has today, and that is a lack of good-paying jobs. It has done well in providing jobs for waiters and cooks, evidenced by the restaurants along Atlantic, but not so well in providing jobs for accounts, lawyers, marketer, brokers and other white collar professions.

“It fills a void in the community,” McDuffie said of Atlantic Plaza II. “Either you grow or you die.”

As for delaying the project, McDuffie noted that the project has been on the drawing boards since he joined the city commission in 2007.

Jeff Edwards of the Edwards Cos. presented a list of changes the developers made in the plans to lessen the impact of the project on the area, many having to do with efforts to reduce traffic.

As originally proposed, the project had 50 residential units per acre, well above the 30 allowed by the city code. It reduced the number to 43 during its presentation Tuesday. Edwards agreed to a further compromise put forth by Commissioner Adam Frankel to cut the number to 40.

Commissioners Al Jacquet and Tom Carney voted against the proposal. Commissioners Angeleta Gray and Frankel joined McDuffie in approving it. The project’s site plan still needs to be approved by commissioners before the project can go forward.

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