DELRAY BEACH — A developer has significantly changed a proposal to rehabilitate and build out part of downtown historic district after it was negatively received by many residents and city leaders.
The divisive large-scale development along Swinton Avenue south of Atlantic Avenue, touted as connector between the bustling East Atlantic and sleepy west, will again appear before a city board Tuesday night. Delray’s Historic Preservation Board rejected the development in June following a two-night public hearing that spanned nine hours.
But after cooperating with some of the project’s most vocal dissidents, developer Hudson Holdings hopes to gain public approval at the coming Tuesday.
“We did everything that’s possible,” said Steve Michael, a principal at Hudson Holdings. “They gave us a lot of good feedback. They helped us create a better project.”
The project still doesn’t sit well with some, including residents who form the Delray Historic Preservation Trust, a nonprofit aimed at protecting Delray Beach’s historic properties.
Midtown Delray Beach, formerly known as Swinton Commons, has been in the works for more than a year, but hasn’t gained enough public support to move through the required rounds of city approvals.
Swinton Avenue just south of Atlantic Avenue is home to some of Delray Beach’s oldest structures tucked behind lush landscaping. Hudson Holdings wants to rehabilitate the historic district by renovating some of those homes and building a hotel, stores and an underground parking garage around them.
Using feedback from those opposed to the project, including members of the Delray Historic Preservation Trust, Hudson Holdings reduced the scale of project slightly by eliminating some retail space and relocating fewer historic homes, Michael said.
Hudson Holdings also swapped residential units on the second floor of a building at the northwest corner of the site with office space, and tweaked the architectural design so it better fits with the historic corridor, Michael added.
But the project still will likely see resistance from some residents.
JoAnn Peart, president of the preservation trust, sent an email to state preservation employees, city officials and media calling the project “out of scale” for the historic district.
“We endeavored to get him (Steve Michael) to reduce the sizes, but were unsuccessful,” Peart wrote in late November. The trust did acknowledge the concessions Hudson Holdings made, specifically keeping many historic structures in place, but aspects of the project remain “unacceptable,” Peart wrote.
Peart could not be reached for comment Monday.
The project will likely spark another lengthy and lively debate Tuesday. If approved, it will have to move through another city board before it reaches the city commission for approval.