DELRAY BEACH — The city’s iconic 100-foot Christmas tree — well, a replacement that cost taxpayers nearly $800,000 — now towers in downtown Delray Beach.
Along with the new tree comes a new home. Only the top of the lofty structure can be seen from bustling Atlantic Avenue, as the tree now sits inside the Old School Square campus at Atlantic and Swinton avenues. Historically, it’s been placed right along Atlantic Avenue at the south entrance of the campus.
The frame of the tree was put together by contracted engineers this month. Workers were on-site Monday putting touches on the holiday destination.
The annual lighting ceremony, which draws thousands to downtown Delray Beach, is planned for 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 30.
City leaders bought the new Christmas tree, hardly distinguishable from its predecessor, after they learned the original 100-foot Christmas tree was unsafe.
A feature of the tree is a decorated tunnel that visitors can walk through. But the decades-old tree was structurally unsound, prompting leaders to invest $790,000 in a new tree.
The new tree has the same walk-through features. The main difference is the new tree has an aluminum frame, rather than a steel frame, which caused rusting and cracking in the old tree.
The tree is now housed deep inside the Old School Square campus to protect the historically designated cultural arts center from damage, city leaders said. City leaders also wanted the change because construction used to shut down the front of Old School Square for a few weeks while the tree was being put together by cranes and city staff.
“During the holiday season, this is one of the country’s most visited locations,” said Bob Currie, an architect contracted by the city to oversee a revitalization effort at Old School Square. “We wanted to create an atmosphere that allowed us to expand the appeal of the acclaimed attraction.”
The tree is now tucked between Old School Square’s parking garage and the buildings along Atlantic Avenue that house restaurants Cabana El Rey and Sazio.