Engineers are about ready to finalize the design and start scooping up the land Palm Beach County needs to build a curving, northern extension of Congress Avenue from Northlake Boulevard to Alternate A1A to relieve traffic congestion.
Palm Beach County Commissioners approved the alignment of the road in March, but the engineers went back to the drawing board with the developer who owns the former Hilltop Gardens Mobile Home Park to minimize the impact of the road cutting through the 23-acre property, Palm Beach County and Palm Beach Gardens officials said.
An entity of CalAtlantic Homes owns the parcel, which Palm Beach Gardens rezoned from residential to commercial in 2009 at the developer’s request. No one returned messages left at the company’s Coral Springs office. Someone who replied to an inquiry on the company’s website said she had no information. The Hilltop property has sat empty since the mobile home residents left about a decade ago.
If the developer is satisfied with the road design, the county may not have to buy as much right-of-way for the Congress Avenue extension, said Omelio Fernandez, director of Palm Beach County’s Roadway Production division.
The county will have $5.76 million to start acquiring property next year. A combined $5 million is approved for construction in 2020 and 2021, putting the total cost of $10.76 million, Fernandez said.
As designed, the road is expected to move traffic better, but traffic from the Hilltop redevelopment is a question mark.
“We’re looking at a big equation with this developer,” Fernandez said.
The Palm Beach Gardens City Council will have the final say on the Hilltop redevelopment. The Planning and Zoning Department has no current applications from the developer, city spokeswoman Candice Temple said.
Palm Beach Gardens Engineer Todd Engle has been working with the owner and the county on the Congress Avenue alignment, she said.
Last year, county engineers estimated the road will affect 15 properties, including single-family homes, a mobile home park and businesses. Hi Acres Park, a mobile home community on the east side of Park Lane and south side of Richard Road, is still occupied. Hi Acres is in unincorporated Palm Beach County.
It’s too soon to tell how many will actually be displaced, Fernandez said. Some houses are borderline, so engineers are trying to minimize those affected.
The previously approved alignment connects Congress Avenue at Northlake to Park Lane. It then swings to Richard Road just east of Seacoast Utility Authority property. Richard Road and Alternate A1A already intersect.
The city owns another six acres at the Hilltop property at 9290 Park Lane. In 2015, Palm Beach Gardens asked for letters of interest for private developers to create a public facility for recreational or leisure activities.
An evaluation committee recommended the city enter into negotiations with Kaufman Lynn Construction, of Boca Raton, to eventually award a contract estimated at $12.8 million. The city and Kaufman never reached an agreement, and there’s been no more negotiating, Temple said.
Kaufman didn’t have the money to pay for the plan it proposed for a simple building with eight courts for volleyball, basketball and other such sports, Temple said.
The vacant lot backs up to the Seacoast property, where Palm Beach Gardens will build a police and fire training complex. The city wants to put in an access road for the training site, Temple said.
Someone could still propose another idea for city-owned property, she said.
“It still has a lot of potential,” Temple said.