Potential buyer emerges for Old School Square garage space

By David Sedore, Palm Beach Business.com

DELRAY BEACH — Finally, a buyer for the retail space in the city-owned Old School Square parking garage?

Maybe. Then again, maybe not.

A team of three general contractors, two of whom are from Chicago, the third from Pineapple Grove are proposing to buy the 6,000-square-foot space from the city for $1.44 million and use it a bistro/live music venue/market/culinary arts center.

If all goes according to plan, the new facility would open December 1, according to Tom Kinsloe, the Pineapple Grove resident who heads the group.

“We feel that we would be a boost for the area,” Kinsloe said. “We expect to create somewhere between 20 and 30 new jobs. We feel we would bring new customers to the area, not just siphon off existing ones.”

The commission, which heard Kinsloe’s pitch during a workshop meeting Tuesday evening, didn’t exactly embrace the proposal, but it didn’t reject it either. A counter proposal is likely emerge in the next week or so.

“We need to do some homework, and we need to do it very, very quickly,” Mayor Woodie McDuffie said.

The commission’s hesitation might seem odd, considering the city has been attempting to sell the space for about 18 months, and considering the carrying costs — about $60,000 a year in interest payments alone, plus $35,000 or more in lost property tax revenue.

On the other hand, the Kinsloe group’s $1.44 million offer is substantially lower than city’s asking price. The property was appraised at $2 million about a year ago.

Another factor: Selecting the right occupant is seen as crucial to attracting badly needed pedestrian traffic into the Pineapple Grove district.

“The big thing for me is the vision for the area,” Commissioner Mackenson Bernard said. “What happens if this doesn’t go and the property is sold. We don’t want to lose the vision.”

There’s also been something of a surge in interest in the space since May, when the commission asked the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency to study the possibility of leasing the space as it a search for a buyer continues. CRA Board Member Rich McGloin told the commission that 12 businesses have expressed some degree of interest in the space.

McDuffie said those alternatives need to be explored as well.

But Weiner said the Kinsloe group is the proverbial bird in the hand.

“Tom has a proposal that doesn’t rob the rest of the street,” Weiner said. “He’s ready to go. Any alternatives you take with respect to leasing means you’re likely going to have to spend money before you see any in return.

“We’re talking about buying, taking it off your hands and you putting the money in the bank.”

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