By Betty Wells
The design proposal for a luxury theater, retail and office complex in downtown Delray Beach has rankled neighboring business owners, who say it will create dangerous traffic flow, restrict access for emergency vehicles and keep customers from their establishments.
Mayor Cary Glickstein said he shares some concerns and is attempting to negotiate a compromise.
iPic Entertainment’s proposal is to construct a five-story mixed-use facility with an eight-screen, 529-seat luxury movie theater; 42,869 square feet of Class A office space — including iPic’s corporate headquarters — 7,290 square feet of retail space; and a 279-space parking garage. Planned parking is 50 spaces more than required by city code, according to the Community Redevelopment Agency.
The CRA project is at Fourth and Fifth avenues, a site that includes the old library building on Southeast Fourth Avenue, the Chamber of Commerce office building on Southeast Fifth Avenue, and the adjacent public parking lot.
“The design would have a huge impact on the businesses nearby, and the way the parking garage empties into alleys would mean access would be delayed for police and fire trucks,” said Bruce Gimmy, owner since 1990 of the Trouser Shop at 439 E. Atlantic Ave. Gimmy was appointed July 31 to the city’s Parking Management Advisory Board, which advises the City Council on parking policy.
Dr. Robert George, whose family settled in Delray Beach in 1908 and opened a business on Atlantic Avenue in 1911, met on July 10 with Scott Pape, a Planning and Zoning Department project planner.
In a letter, requested by Pape from George after the meeting, George outlined the concerns.
“We are deeply troubled in regard to specific elements of the proposed redevelopment of the ‘Old Public Library’ site and other nearby properties,” the letter said.
George heads Abeleina Properties Inc., which owns properties at 400 to 406 E. Atlantic.
The letter stated that 10 other businesses had the same concerns.
The objections listed as addressed in the meeting are:
• The main entrance and exit of the parking garage would open onto the east-west alley of block 101. The traffic already gets backed up on the alley road, and adding hundreds more vehicles would make it much worse.
• The opening from the garage is directly across the alley from the George Building, at the southeast corner of Southeast Fourth Avenue and East Atlantic, and would make it difficult for drivers to enter the parking area of the building.
• Traffic from the alley would exit onto either Southeast Fourth, or Southeast Fifth, adding hundreds of cars daily to already busy streets.
• Plans call for abandonment of the northern half of the south alley of block 101. Closure would impair free access of emergency vehicles and vendors.
• While the parking garage calls for the addition of 279 spaces, construction would eliminate a total of 98 public parking spaces.
George declined to comment on the meeting with Pape, the letter, or a meeting he had with Glickstein.
Glickstein said he has concerns about adequate parking for the intended uses, first responder access, the public parking spaces lost and how theater traffic will work at the location.
“I also question a site plan that would force visitor access to such a beautiful new building through a public service alley that is both unsightly and used intensely by a variety of service vehicles … that have no other location for access and deliveries,” Glickstein said.
One of the complaints from business owners was that they were not consulted about the plan before the CRA accepted it, and though it meets city code, the city is not listening to their concerns.
“I think there was adequate notice, but I also believe there was, and remains, a disconnect between the notice provided of what may happen in a complicated (Request for Proposals) process and what stakeholders understand about the complexities and ramifications of the RFP process and the RFP winner’s plans and how those plans may impact their property/business,” Glickstein said.
Glickstein said he was meeting during the first week of September with iPic developers and planning and zoning staff to address the concerns.
iPic did not respond to questions. A spokesman for a public relations firm representing the company said the firm had no comment.
According to the CRA, after the Delray Beach Public Library moved to West Atlantic Avenue, its former site on Southeast Fourth became available for redevelopment. The CRA issued an RFP to solicit development proposals in 2006, but it all stalled during the recession.
In February 2013, the CRA issued another RFP. In August 2013, the CRA awarded the RFP to Delray Beach Holdings LLC — a limited liability entity created for development purposes by iPic Holdings LLC of Boca Raton.
In April, the associated development applications were submitted to the city and are under review. The CRA says completion of the project is anticipated in 2016.
Glickstein noted the growing pains that can come from longtime businesses affected by development.
“The George family has been here since shortly after the town was incorporated,” he said. “We are fortunate to have such generational connections to our past that still play an active role in our city.
“I think Dr. George, as do others like him with such perspective of our town, has valuable and relevant insight that some may minimize as dated. I like knowing I can look to him and other longtime Delray family members like him for wisdom and guidance. That doesn’t mean we may always agree, but it’s a valuable reference point for me.” Ú