Old Office Depot site may get new tenants
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.”
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.