Dormant plaza on U.S. 1 north of Gardens to see reboot with annexation

Sept 10, 2018
The dormant Carl’s Plaza on U.S. 1 in Palm Beach Gardens on Sept. 7, 2018. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach Gardens officials are rolling out the welcome mat for new owners who plan to annex a vacant shopping center into the city so that they can rejuvenate it.

RELATED: Gardens could annex U.S. 1 plaza once slated for high-end fishing shop

11940 Highway One Realty bought the former Carl’s Furniture Plaza from Bass Pro Shops for $7 million this spring and asked to join the city. The 5.7-acre property is on the east side of U.S. 1 just north of PGA Boulevard.

RELATED: Bass Pro Shops pulls plug on Palm Beach County location

The city council supported the annexation Thursday night.

Mayor Maria Marino said the city stands to gain $32,000 from property taxes before any improvements.

Palm Beach Gardens can require its standards for landscaping, architecture and design, said Natalie Crowley, the city’s director of planning and zoning.

“You will get ultimately a development that is within the Gardens character on the site,” Crowley told the city council Thursday night.

The owners will renovate the inside of the plaza, upgrade the facade and update the landscaping, said Anne Booth, a planner working on the project.

By absorbing the property into its borders, Palm Beach Gardens officials also will gain control over its future from the county. The Carl’s Plaza owners said they plan to lease it as commercial space.

Councilman Mark Marciano brought up the county commission’s recent approval for a different developer’s plans to convert a failing shopping plaza just up the street into apartments and townhouses over the objection of neighbors.

“If they decide to change their mind, I would prefer the city to have the ultimate decision on what can be built there,” he said.

Plus, smoothing over the rough edges of the city’s boundary will result in better services for the public, Crowley said.

City police will not have to add staff or equipment because the plaza is in an existing patrol area, Senior Planner Martin Fitts said. Palm Beach County Fire Rescue has a station within a mile, and they would continue to be the first-responders, Fitts said. The drainage meets the capacity.

For the owners, the annexation could make it easier to get building permits and lure tenants than if the plaza remained in the county.

11940 Highway One Realty is a joint venture between NTK Partners LLC and RJS Partners of North Palm Beach.

RJS Partners President Bob Sullivan said they’re talking to potential tenants but don’t have any signed leases.

Councilwoman Rachelle Litt asked what other nearby, comparable properties Sullivan has handled.

Sullivan told the council he owns other projects along the U.S. 1 corridor, including the strip occupied by Valley National Bank and The Melting Pot fondue restaurant and the 4,500-square-foot center where 3 Natives is located.

He’s a director and partner with Southeast Centers, a property management and development company that used to own an interest in about 40 Publix-anchored shopping centers before the portfolio was sold.

Sullivan, who lived in PGA National for 18 years, said they want to see the annexation completed.

“That was one of the first things we wanted to do when we acquired the property,” Sullivan said. “It’s been sitting there vacant … and it’s been kind of a blight. We’re looking forward to rejuvenating it.”