Boynton Beach is one step closer to having a walkable, busy, profitable, attractive, bustling, livable and everything else residents and officials have long yearned for — downtown.
Officials chose a group to partner with to redevelop the 16-something acres of land east of Interstate 95 off of Boynton Beach Boulevard called Town Square.
City commissioners on Tuesday night gave staff the OK to start negotiations with E2L Real Estate Solutions of Winter Park, and create a contract for a public/private partnership to be approved in June.
E2L created a team specifically for this project that includes household names in Boynton such as:
- JKM Developers, which is building the Cortina development off Congress Avenue and the dog park.
- REG Architects, which is run by Rick Gonzalez, who has long expressed an interest in preserving the city’s historic high school.
-Michael Weiner, a zoning attorney who often comes before the commissioners to gain their approval on developments.
The project is estimated to cost about $250 million. Details need to be worked out but the city could pay about $65 million, said Colin Groff, an assistant city manager.
The development would be historic for a city that has never had a genuine downtown. Unlike some nearby towns, Boynton Beach was not laid out with a pedestrian-oriented street grid that included a prominent commercial backbone like Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach or Lake and Lucerne avenues in Lake Worth.
Boynton has lacked a busy street that leads all the way to the ocean, which was one of the elements that was essential to the revival of downtown Delray Beach, according to veterans of that 1990s effort. But the city wants to turn East Ocean Avenue into that main street of the four neighborhoods that, if all works out, will turn into an arts and cultural district.
Commissioners did not vote Tuesday on E2L’s development plan. That won’t happen until after a series of community workshops are held through August. In addition to the historic high school, new parks, and a new city hall, the plan includes apartments, town homes, a hotel, retail and an assisted-living facility.
“We really want the public to be involved and there will be lots of opportunities for them to be involved,” said Groff.
Commissioner Christina Romelus emphasized the importance of hiring local workers for the project, which she hopes will strengthen the city’s small businesses.
“I believe that this is going to be a major shift in the landscape of Boynton Beach,” Romelus said.
The redevelopment of the land — from Boynton Beach Boulevard to Southeast Second Avenue and from Seacrest Boulevard to Northeast First Street — will transform Boynton.
At the center is the historic high school, which would be remodeled and used as a main arts and culture building. The Schoolhouse Museum and Children’s Learning Center would stay along with the library and Kid’s Kingdom playground, but with some updating.
“I’m looking forward to the public input. It’s going to be an exciting time here in Boynton Beach,” said Commissioner Joe Casello.
Here is the full plan:
- New City Hall: three stories, 30,000 square feet with ground level retail of 5,000 square feet
- Historic high school renovation: 28,536 square feet, two stories with 3,000 square feet of ground level retail (Work on the high school could start within the coming months.)
- Residential apartments: 230 units, eight stories and 224 units, eight stories
- Assisted living facility: 144 units, five stories
- Town homes: 10, two stories
- At least three parks
- Hotel: six stories 120 units with 14,000-square-feet of ground-level retail
- Three parking garages, plus surface and on-street parking
- New police department: Not in Town Square; possibly on High Ridge Road next to the fire station off Gateway Boulevard.
- New fire station 1: Adjacent to the Town Square border on Northeast First Street
To find the right group, the city put out a request for qualifications for the redevelopment, and created an evaluation committee, which evaluated four proposals in November.
The top three were Boynton Vision; E2L Real Estate Solutions; and MCC, LLC. The three presented to the committee in late March, and E2L came out as the strongest.
The downtown committee
To find the right group, the city put out a request for qualifications for the redevelopment, and created an evaluation committee consisting of:
- City Manager Lori LaVerriere
- Interim CRA Executive Director Mike Simon
- Director of Development Andrew Mack
- Director of Public Works Jeff Livergood
- Chair of CRA Advisory Board Linda Cross
- Planning and Development Board Member Ryan Wheeler