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Boynton program marks 2nd triumph by turning vacant building into viable business
Friday, 15 July 2016 20:49

Attiyya Anthony Sun Sentinel
July 15, 2016
Former Denny's site now home to new Boynton restaurant thanks to lien waiver program
Three years ago, homeless squatters called an abandoned Denny's restaurant on Boynton Beach's Federal Highway their home. Now, it's a place to get a good slice of meatloaf and a scoop of mashed potatoes.
When James Guilbeault, a local caterer, saw the place, located at 2201 S. Federal Highway, he wasn't deterred by the waste that dotted the floor or the falling roof panels inside.
In fact, he was motivated to open his first retail restaurant on one of Boynton Beach's developing thoroughfares with the help of one of the city's development programs.
Culinary To Go will have its grand opening Friday. Guilbeault, the owner and executive chef, said he is thankful for the city's conditional lien waiver program, which last year agreed to knock off over $800,000 in property liens. The goal was to make the property more attractive. It's at least the second business venture to benefit from the program since it started in 2014.
"The lien reduction was a necessary part of the process," he said. "By removing the liens, the city helped me to take a blighted eyesore and turn it into something."
That's what the program is about, city officials say.
As part of the program, interested developers are eligible to get thousands of dollars of liens removed if they agree to bring the building in question up to code within six months.
In 2014, the pilot program began to spark the redevelopment of properties that had fallen into disrepair. And in April, the City Commission called the program a success, making the program official.
Although the liens on Guilbeault's property still are under review, Guilbeault said the city assured him the liens will be dropped. He said he's proud of the store's transformation and hopes to build a loyal customer base.
"We're affordable with homemade, good, high-quality food," he said.
The eatery already had a soft opening, so Jeanna Heavilin, a Boynton Beach resident, visited Wednesday. "The place is fabulous," she said. "I didn't know what to expect, but I may take something home."
She added: "I live close by and I don't like to cook."
The restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert and specializes in "fast casual comfort food," such as macaroni and cheese and pulled pork.
"If you have good food at a good price, people will find you," Guilbeault said. "But I've eyed Federal Highway for a while and this is a really good location that we put a lot of work into."
Guilbeault said that the restaurant is about improving the community. That's why he said he is donating all proceeds from the restaurant's Friday opening to the Schoolhouse Children's Museum, 129 E. Ocean Ave.
Culinary To Go isn't the conditional lien waiver program's only accomplishment, city officials say.
Ocean Palm Plaza, located at 1500 Federal Highway, is another success story. The plaza, which used to be called called Yachtsman Plaza, had fallen into disrepair since the 1990s, racking up more than $100,000 in fines, documents show.
Last year, after liens were waived, the developer invested $600,000 into the property to fix the roof and make structure improvements. Now, Cohen Realty is looking for businesses to fill the plaza.
"The point of the program is to transfer the property from a seller to a new buyer, turning the property into a productive part of the community," said Andrew Mack, the city's director of development.
The program has also been used on blighted properties on Seacrest Boulevard, Northeast Fourth Court, South Road, Chesapeake Circle and Federal Highway, the city says.

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Boynton Beach Redevelopment Agency
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