Development South Of Atlantic Avenue Could Add To Delray’s Transformation

Mar 06, 2014 No Comments by

Two new buildings have created a big buzz in Delray because they have the potential to help transform empty lots south of Atlantic Avenue into the seaside village’s newest trendy place to live, work and hang out.

Along with the new buildings, which will house offices, shops and lofts, comes a catchy new name residents are starting to use: SOFA, for South Of Atlantic.

Delray’s star attraction, Atlantic Avenue, thrives with throngs of foodies, partiers and shoppers. And while areas to the north are booming, its southern side has lagged behind, struggling to attract development.

The $20 million “SOFA District Offices and Lofts” project promises to splash color onto the now-lackluster lots. It’s two buildings will feature 16,000 square feet of new office space, 5,000 feet of retail shops and 76 lofts for sale on the east side of Southeast Third Avenue, between Southeast First and Second streets.

Barring any huge snags, it’s estimated that the project could be open within two years.

When the new project got the green light last week, city officials and residents were overjoyed that new development is shifting off the main drag to showcase another section of downtown. “It’s been called SOFA, but it can also be called nada because there’s been nothing going on in that area,” project architect Richard Jones said.

The SOFA site is sleepy now, there is no question about that. Boarded-up cottages and overgrown grassy swales are all that can be seen on the empty lots. The most action the area sees is when people leave their cars along SOFA’s dimly lit streets because they can’t find a parking spot downtown. “It’s a crime-ridden dilapidated area that could use a face-lift,” said Kevin Homer, who lives in Osceola Park, a nearby neighborhood.

Resident Jim Knight agreed it’s about time for a makeover. He has watched several projects over the years receive approval from the city to build on the site, but shovels never struck the ground. “It’s very exciting to see positive changes coming to that area and filling the gap,” he said.

City officials feel the same way, which is why they unanimously approved the project and gave it a variance to include more living space than Delray’s rules would normally allow.

“South of Atlantic is a dead zone,” Commissioner Al Jacquet said. “A vote for this is a vote for that area of town. It’s going to be a seamless street. It’s going to keep people walking.”

Currently, people often hit the southern border and pivot around because there is not much to see.

Adding the new project also will unify the SOFA district with Atlantic Avenue and Pineapple Grove, north of Atlantic Avenue, and Osceola Park, south of Atlantic. It follows a concept the city adopted to extend downtown from State Road A1A to Interstate 95. “We have redeveloped the north end,” Commissioner Angeleta Gray said. “We are finally redeveloping the south side.”

The project also received accolades for its efforts in sustainability because it uses a shared parking program between both buildings, supplies bike racks and will be certified a “green” building. “We want more buildings like this,” said Carol Anderson, who represents SAFE, a group that promotes efforts to keep Delray sustainable.

Jones said it will emerge as the go-to place for house hunters and business owners, attracting people who crave Delray’s “live, work, play” mantra.

That is exactly what Joe White, who owns the SOFA parcels, had in mind for the finished product. He will be the first tenant, uprooting his Boca Raton-based law firm and heading north when the doors open. “A number of us live in Delray,” White said. “We eat there, drink there, socialize there, but we have to work in Boca.”

Before voting to approve the SOFA project, Commissioner Shelly Petrolia said she would have liked to see more retail space there. “We are selling ourselves a little short,” she said. “We aren’t inviting people down there.” But her colleagues, and many residents who came to the commission meeting to discuss the SOFA project, didn’t feel that was a sticking point. The SOFA plan, they said, was a vast improvement over the barren, stagnant eyesore. “Activity begets activity,” Mayor Cary Glickstein said. “You have to start someplace.”

Just a couple of weeks ago, Carl DeSantis, former Rexall Sundown owner and head of CDS International Holdings, together with the Ohio-based Edwards Companies, received approval for a $200 million, nine-acre mixed-use development along Atlantic Avenue west of the Intracoastal Waterway in Delray Beach.


Source:  SunSentinel

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