Developer buys mangroves land, wants to give to city

The owners of Riverwalk Plaza, the shopping center they will soon redevelop into a 10-story residential building with retail stores, bought two pieces of adjacent land this past week that are filled with lush, overgrown mangroves along the Intracoastal Waterway.

Today, Shaul Rikman, the founder of Isram Realty that owns the plaza, is expected to tell the City Commission he wants to give the land to Boynton at no charge and seeks the commission’s approval and lawyers on both sides to work out the logistics.

Commissioner Justin Katz pushed the developer to go after the land to protect the green space. He said the deal prevents someone from developing the mangroves, a possibility some residents have long feared. Katz hopes residents who dislike the overall redevelopment project, which he supported, see this as a gesture by the developer to show his investment in the community.

Former Commissioner Mike Fitzpatrick is one of those residents concerned about the green space, and was pleased to hear the plan.

“I think it is a good step forward to having high density surrounded by zero density for quality of life and I hope there’s more of this in the future,” Fitzpatrick said. “And of course, it’s valuable land acting as a fish nursery for boaters in Boynton.”

The two parcels are at Woolbright Road and Federal Highway, behind the McDonald’s on the Intracoastal Waterway. They sit between Riverwalk and the Seagate of Gulfstream residential community. Isram bought the land for $750,000, according to court records. Once the city has ownership of the land, Katz wants the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency to pay for a boardwalk over the Intracoastal that could connect Riverwalk and Seagate. Isram plans for a boardwalk with the Riverwalk project, but not one that crosses the Intracoastal.

“To me that’s a real boardwalk, over the water,” Katz said.

Isram owns a third piece of land of mangroves that is more inland and closer to the McDonald’s. However, the company plans to keep ownership of that, Katz said.

The plans for the other two parcels of land started before commissioners approved the Riverwalk redevelopment project in January. Residents asked Katz to try and make the project more pleasing to them since they knew he was already in support of it. Some residents had already spoken about the mangroves, and their suspicions of what the developer planned to do with the land. Katz said he decided to work on protecting the greenery.

He discussed it with Isram, but for a while, nothing happened. Then, recently, Katz said he heard from Isram that the deal was a go.

“I hope some pragmatic people will look at this as an addition that didn’t have to be done,” he said.

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