The latest for ‘downtown’ Boynton Beach: The Villages at East Ocean

Longtime Boynton Beach land owner Arthur D’Almeida wants to be part of transforming Boynton Beach Boulevard and Ocean Avenue into a lively, pedestrian-friendly downtown and plans to build stores, homes and public plazas on about five acres of his property.

Called The Villages at East Ocean Avenue, D’Almeida, a Boca Raton-based attorney, has split his project into two sections divided by Ocean Avenue west of Federal Highway. The north section, from Boynton Beach Boulevard south to Ocean Avenue between the FEC tracks and Northeast Third Street, will be an eight-story building with 336 units, 12,257 square feet of commercial space and a seven-story parking garage.

The south section, from Ocean Avenue south to Southeast Second Avenue between the tracks and Southeast Third, will be 35 multi-family units and town homes in two buildings that range in height between three and five stories. There also will be 3,500 square feet of commercial space.

Commissioners have unanimously signed off on The Villages, which has been in the making for about two years. Construction should start in about one year, said Bradley Miller, the Boynton Beach-based land planner on the project.

When Commissioner Joe Casello asked D’Almeida’s team this month about the groundbreaking, the team showed its excitement when one person said “the shovel is in the car.”

“It’s exciting from a professional standpoint to bring two-plus years of project to, it’s not really a close, it’s really a start. To get that approval is just a big milestone,” Miller said Friday. “And then from a personal standpoint and someone who has been in Boynton Beach since 1990, it’s just exciting for me to see the downtown taking some real form and shape and moving forward.”

Commissioner Christina Romelus said it’s “one of the best projects that’s come to the city in a long time.”

The Villages is the latest to join other downtown projects including:

- The under-construction 500 Ocean retail and residential development at the southwest corner of Ocean Avenue and Federal Highway.

- The future redevelopment of Town Square , about 16 acres of land off Boynton Beach Boulevard where City Hall, the library and the police station are.

- Ocean One ’s apartments and retail at the southeast corner of Boynton Beach Boulevard and Federal Highway. Construction has not started.

The north part of the project has a total of 19 on-street parking spots sprinkled throughout Ocean Avenue, Northeast Third Street and Boynton Beach Boulevard. In the residential building, there will be three lofts, seven studios, 135 one-bedrooms, 181 two-bedrooms and 10 three-bedrooms. They’ll range in size from 693 square feet to 1,530 square feet.

The south side will have nine studios, six one-bedrooms, four live/work units, 11 two-bedrooms and five three-bedrooms. They’ll range from 954 square feet to 3,044 square feet. There will be a surface parking lot fit for 61 vehicles, the town homes will have two-car garages, and there will be 17 on-street parking spots.

But a couple aspects of The Villages have left some residents dissatisfied.

D’Almeida is exploring building live-work apartments along Boynton Beach Boulevard, while city staff and Vice Mayor Justin Katz and Commissioner Mack McCray said they’d rather see only retail. The development team said only retail won’t succeed there because of very limited parking and lack of access for deliveries. But those pushing it said the plan for Boynton Beach Boulevard has always been to have retail fronting the street.

Resident Mike Fitzpatrick, a former commissioner, wants more green space, and proposed the team work to make a condo building, not included in the plan but next to it, become a park. He’s also concerned about the Andrew’s House , the city’s oldest house, on Southeast First Avenue located within the project lines. Miller said the team wants to keep the structure, but is open to moving it or making it a commercial building. For now, it will remain residential, he said.

The project is in the Downtown Transit-Oriented Development District, which is a circle of land less than one mile of where a station is expected to be built sometime in the future for the Tri-Rail Coastal Link commuter train. The city gives projects in that district a 25 percent density bonus. That allows this project to be build up to 100 dwelling units per acre. The train station would be just east of the project.

Existing businesses — such as Ocean Avenue’s the East Ocean Cafe and The Blossom Shoppe Florist — in buildings owned by D’Almeida will be asked to join the new development, Miller said.

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