Old Of­fice De­pot site may get new ten­ants

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Money - By Lois K. Solomon

The for­mer Of­fice De­pot head­quar­ters in Del­ray Beach, an enor­mous va­cant par­cel that has been empty for 10 years, may fi­nally have a new oc­cu­pant: a sprawl­ing de­vel­op­ment with apart­ments, restau­rants, stores and of­fices.

The Del­ray Beach City Com­mis­sion took the first step this week to­ward ap­prov­ing the new use for the 49-acre prop­erty on Con­gress Av­enue south of Lin­ton Boule­vard. Com­mis­sion­ers said the de­vel­op­ment could serve as a cor­ner­stone for the re­vival of Con­gress Av­enue, a north-south road just west of In­ter­state 95 that the city hopes will mir­ror the suc­cess of At­lantic Av­enue, with its des­ti­na­tion restau­rants, trendy neigh­bor­hoods, cof­fee shops, of­fice com­plexes and arts dis­trict.

The old Of­fice De­pot site “has been dor­mant for long enough,” Com­mis­sioner Ryan Boyl­ston said.

Still, many neigh­bors have ob­jected, say­ing the plans call for too much traf­fic to be emp­tied onto two-lane Old Ger­man­town Road on the de­vel­op­ment’s north side.

“I’m wor­ried about fa­tal­i­ties,” res­i­dent Neil Co­hen said. “It’s go­ing to be grid­lock. It’s go­ing to turn us into Man­hat­tan.”

The new de­vel­op­ment, which in­cludes the Ar­bors of­fice com­plex at Con­gress and Old Ger­man­town, could have up to 1,009 apart­ments, town­houses and con­do­mini­ums; 70,000 square feet of of­fices; 250,000 square feet of retail; and 80,000 square feet of restau­rants.

The de­vel­op­ment would bring about 13,000 ad­di­tional

trips a day onto sur­round­ing streets, ac­cord­ing to the city’s Plan­ning and Zon­ing Board.

Most of the traf­fic would pro­ceed onto Con­gress, a 4.1-mile stretch through Del­ray Beach that con­nects to Boca Ra­ton at the south and Boyn­ton Beach to the north.

Both of those cities have suc­ceeded in lur­ing busi­nesses to their sec­tions of the six-lane road.

But de­vel­op­ment in Del­ray Beach has been scat­tered, es­pe­cially since Of­fice De­pot an­nounced its de­par­ture from its Con­gress site in 2006 and va­cated it in 2008.

Con­gress now has sev­eral empty lots, over­grown veg­e­ta­tion and non­de­script busi­ness cen­ters. Of­fi­cials have pinned hopes on projects such as Old School Bak­ery, at 45 N. Con­gress, and nearby Salt­wa­ter Brew­ery, at 1701 W. At­lantic Ave., look­ing to cre­ate a mini-arts and en­ter­tain­ment dis­trict.

And they want the 28-acre Palm Beach County South Ad­min­is­tra­tive Cen­ter, at 345 S. Con­gress Ave., to be­come a hub for work­ers, food and trans­porta­tion, as it sits next to the city's Tri-Rail sta­tion with 800 park­ing spa­ces.

The cen­ter has of­fices for the county's prop­erty ap­praiser, su­per­vi­sor of elec­tions and county com­mis­sion­ers.

A task force rec­om­mended re­design­ing parts of Con­gress to en­cour­age walk­ing, bik­ing and pub­lic trans­porta­tion. Mem­bers also wanted to see new, dense hous­ing de­vel­op­ments that cater to mid­dle-class work­ers and en­cour­age res­i­dents to work, shop and eat nearby.

Del­ray Beach res­i­dent Ari White­man told the City Com­mis­sion the de­vel­op­ment on the old Of­fice De­pot land could spur a new per­cep­tion of the city.

“It will be a cat­a­lyst that could help market the city be­yond just a tourist des­ti­na­tion,” he said. “It’s an es­sen­tial project that could ben­e­fit ev­ery­one in the long run.”

SUN-SEN­TINEL

Del­ray Beach has been try­ing to find a new use for the old Of­fice De­pot prop­erty as part of its plans to re­vive Con­gress Av­enue.

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