Boynton Beach's plan for downtown districts taking shape
Friday, 15 July 2016 20:51

Attiyya AnthonySun Sentinel
July 14, 2016
Boynton Beach wants to turn downtown around
Developing six locales within the center of Boynton Beach could be the solution for downtown revitalization, city officials say.
On Tuesday, at the Boynton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency's regular meeting, board members discussed a plan that would increase foot traffic and fill empty storefronts in the city's downtown.
Upgrades planned by the city would be tailored for each downtown district. The Cultural District would have curbless streets to host festivals, and the Federal Highway district would have more lighting to help deter crime from residential housing projects.
The plan, which is expected to be finalized in August, calls for major street improvements. City officials say that the new plan will help people see what Boynton Beach has to offer.
"Boynton Beach is seemingly overlooked," said Commissioner Justin Katz. "If you have to drive through an undesirable roadway to get where you want to go, it's not going to lure in potential additional businesses." He added: "This plan is a precursor to what we want to do downtown, we have to improve the economic viability there."
According to the plan, city officials envision:
• an Industrial Craft district, west of I-95 to Industrial Avenue;
• a Boynton Beach Boulevard District along the city's main east/west thoroughfare;
• a Downtown District, which would be the center of the city's activity;
• a Cultural District to house the city's events;
• a Federal District along north and south Federal Highway
• and the Heart of Boynton District, bordered by Boynton Beach Boulevard, the C. Stanley Weaver Canal, I-95 and Railroad Avenue.
The new plan may open the door for taller buildings downtown, which some residents oppose. Taller buildings would allow more people to live and work in the city and help downtown's economy grow. According to the plan, some proposed districts, such as the Downtown District, could see buildings of up to 150 feet.
Residents have raised concerns about how proposed building heights would affect the "small-town feel." As part of the plan, some buildings would be allowed to double in height allowed by the city's laws.
Linda Cross, chair of the city's redevelopment agency advisory board, said the advisory board has "an overwhelming support for the projects in the plan. However, when it comes to density and height, there is clearly a 50-50 split from the public and developers."
Developers such as Shaul Rikman, of Isram Realty — who is interested in developing Riverwalk Plaza on Federal Highway into a 10-story luxury living facility — say that height increases are needed to attract more people to their projects and make them financially successful.
Residents say that they don't want to live near towering buildings. And city officials have yet to make a decision on altering the city's height limits.
Resident Buck Buchanan suggested that the city cap building heights at 75 feet. "Height is a real heartburn in this city," he said.
Rikman said that the Riverwalk project has been in limbo for more than a year and the city's indecisiveness on the height of the city's buildings could cause him to withdraw his project proposal. Isram Realty has been working to transform a vacant Winn-Dixie Supermarket in Riverwalk Plaza into luxury waterfront apartments. The developer is asking for a height limit of 100 feet.
"I will withdraw my application," Rickman said at Tuesday's meeting. "I will keep this as a retail center. I'm tired of this, the city has to be big boys and make a decision."
Still, Mayor Steven Grant said it's important to be cautious when talking about height and development. "If we keep building, we won't have a small-town feel," he said.
In other business, the city approved a nearly $1 million green space project with a boardwalk, seating and landscaping at the city's marina.
The green space project is the final phase of the marina's redevelopment.

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