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Delray Beach in 2030: City eyes more dining, entertainment and tourism

Palm Beach Post Article

Delray Beach in 2030: City eyes more dining, entertainment and tourism

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On the Avenue, hip retirees will mingle with young professionals, families and tourists who all flock to this seaside city to play.

Delray Beach’s nickname is the “village by the sea,” and a few decades ago, the name fit. The sleepy seaside city had a main street, Atlantic Avenue, that stretched from the farmlands out west to the ocean in the east.

During the past 30 years, however, the quaint city with the Old Florida style has transformed into a dining, entertainment and tourism destination.

The city’s renaissance has, in turn, driven demand for homes for people who want to live in or near the downtown. These residents include retiring Baby Boomers, professionals, families and young singles.

As the population continues to pour into Palm Beach County, city and business leaders say Delray Beach is poised to stand as the best example of a place where people who live there love to play.

I think it’s going to be the destination in Palm Beach County, a melting pot of ages from 18 to 80,” said Tom Prakas, a restaurant broker who has handled more than 50 restaurant transactions worth more than $100 million in Delray Beach.

Prakas likened downtown’s Atlantic Avenue to a mix between Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale and Clematis Street in West Palm Beach.

“The town is on fire,” agreed Don DeVere, vice president of The Edwards Companies, which is building the mixed-use Atlantic Crossing downtown. “Delray Beach has a great vibe and sells itself. In our view, there is no better place in southeast Florida.”

Delray Beach is no Miami, and most people are happy to keep it that way.

But Delray Beach is getting the amenities typical of more sophisticated cities like Miami, such as the Delray City Market food hall and several new hotels.

In addition, the city just welcomed a multi-million dollar wine bar and gourmet restaurant, The Wine Room, plus the upscale iPic movie theater.

And then there are the dozens of restaurants and bars of all types clustering in and around the downtown.

Mixed-use projects by sophisticated developers also are taking shape at key junctures downtown.

Among them: Atlantic Crossing at Atlantic Avenue and Federal Highway near the Intracoastal Waterway; and a project around the Sundy House boutique hotel, restaurant and gardens. The project, formerly known as Midtown Delray at Swinton and Atlantic avenues, will incorporate historic homes into a new complex of apartments, offices and shops.

Todd Rosenberg, whose Pebb Capital just paid $40 million for the Sundy House property and adjacent buildings, said the city will see “incredible growth” during the next 10 years.

“This is an authentic market that’s been around forever but has come back to life, and today is well beyond a food and beverage destination,” said Rosenberg, whose family has long ties to the city.

But even as he touted his plan to build 70,000 square feet of new office space at the gateway to downtown, Rosenberg pivoted back to the reason office tenants will want to lease there.

It’s a fun place.

“We’re hoping to provide one of the first real office locations for people who want the best of all worlds, next to an incredible entertainment destination and adjacent to fitness, food and lifestyle,” Rosenberg said.

Play is what helped put Delray Beach on the map locally in the 1990s as city leaders tried to revive the stagnant downtown’s fortunes.

“They used to call it Dull-Ray,” said Prakas, the Boca Raton restaurant broker who has done more than 50 deals in the city. “You could camp out on the avenue and never be hit by a car after 9 p.m.”

In 1989, voters approve $21.5 million for beautification and public works projects, allowing for the refurbishment of Old School Square at Swinton and Atlantic Avenues, the gateway to the downtown.

Old School’s cultural offerings, plus restaurants 32 East and Dakota, help kicked off the downtown’s rebirth.

Today, even weeknights are clogged with diners wandering the avenue in search of food and fun. The avenue’s growth has been so pronounced it is now spreading, including north along Second Avenue, an area dubbed Pineapple Grove, and down other streets.

Interest used to be from local players but now regional and national restaurants want a piece of the downtown.

Prakas has sold, and resold, several restaurants. One property, the current Vic & Angelo’s at Atlantic Avenue and the train tracks, has changed hands six times.

The city’s liveliness continues to attract developers meeting demand from people who want to live near the fun.

“It’s a place where people park their cars and never go anywhere else,” said Bil Bathurst, a longtime resident and now a member of the city council.

Apartments, townhouses and condominiums have been built, and more are planned in and near the downtown.

Even old homes north of Atlantic Avenue and west of Swinton Avenue, in and around Lake Ida, are changing hands for big money as new buyers tear down old homes and build luxury, multi-million dollar estates.

Bathurst, a real estate agent with NV Realty Group, said a home at 1415 N. Swinton Avenue sold for $620,000, was torn down and now is being rebuilt into a mansion. Another home at 508 N. 14th Street, which sold for $530,000, also was torn down and is being redeveloped into a large, Key West-style home.

And just east of Swinton Avenue, at 426 Highland Lane, a five-bedroom, five-bathroom house just sold for $1.7 million.

Who is moving there?

“Wealthy people from all over the world,” Bathurst said, citing buyers from Boca Raton, California, New York and Latin America.

Development isn’t just been confined to the downtown, however. West of the city, builders such as GL Homes continue to construct new luxury single-family homes for families and residents 55 years and older.

The Delray Marketplace, once considered a forlorn shopping center complex west of Florida’s Turnpike, now is city central for the thousands of homes in residential communities there.

These communities are just west of upscale enclaves built near Morikami Park. This strip of Jog Road, dubbed Millionaire’s Row, features enclaves such as Addison Reserve Country Club where some homes do, indeed, cost in the millions.

Even north-south corridors such as Military Trail and Congress Avenue are seeing redevelopment into new shopping centers and apartment complexes as demand for residences grow.


Atlantic Crossing

Where Atlantic Avenue meets the Intracoastal Waterway is the setting for a mixed-use complex geared to the future Delray Beach resident.

Atlantic Crossing is a $300 million complex spanning two blocks and featuring office and retail space, plus for-sale condominiums as well as rental apartments. The project is being developed by The Edwards Companies.

The property, bounded by Federal Highway to the west and the city’s Veterans Park to the east, has been in the works for years. But it finally is going vertical, with the first phase set for completion by 2021 and the second phase set for 2023.

Don Devere, The Edward Companies vice president, said Delray Beach has several unique features that make it a good bet for the future. “It has a nice balance of residents, office workers and vacationers,” DeVere said.

Retirees moving to Florida may find interest in Atlantic Crossings’ planned condominiums, or they may prefer the flexibility of renting one of the project’s apartments, as DeVere expects many young professionals in their 20s and 30s will be inclined to do.

In addition to the office and retail space, DeVere also is upbeat about plans to build new office space in the center. Atlantic Crossing will feature 20,000-square-foot floor plates to accommodate large office users. Merrill Lynch, for instance, already plans to lease a full floor in the project’s first building.


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Boca district snares two hot restaurants, more on the way

Chief executive and founding partner David Tornek skipped over southern Palm Beach County when he expanded Meat Market Steakhouse five years ago, choosing a spot on Palm Beach for the sexy Miami Beach restaurant’s first foray north.

Now, with the passage of time and the growth in the population, Meat Market is taking a bite of Palm Beach County: the modern steakhouse restaurant will open a location next year in Boca Raton, near the Town Center mall off of Glades Road, just west of Interstate 95.

Word of Meat Market’s plans to enter the Boca Raton market comes as a long-awaited restaurant taking the former Uncle Tai’s space at Boca Center readies for an opening. Look for Copperfish Kitchen, a seafood restaurant, to open in the summer.

The Meat Market will take space in the Renaissance Hotel, which will undergo something of its own renaissance in the coming year.

Plans are afoot to upgrade the entire hotel and its exterior at 2000 NW 19th St., giving the property a fresh look as it brings in the Meat Market to complement the changes. That’s according to Tom Prakas, a Boca Raton restaurant broker who brought Meat Market to the property after more than a year of negotiation.

Also planned is a redo of the outdoor pool and bar, which will be serviced by the Meat Market and add to the eatery’s vibrant, Miami Beach-y vibe.

Of course, Boca Raton is not Miami Beach, and Tornek said each restaurant has its own style. But the pool is a cool addition, and Tornek is excited about it. “I like the aspect of adding the pool to what we’re doing. It’s a new direction for us, which I think will be interesting,” said Tornek.

Do not expect the dark woods and heavy furnishings typical at other Boca Raton steakhouses, however. “We’re called feminine-friendly,” Tornek said. “It’s not an old men’s atmosphere but a chef-driven menu with a pretty wide variety, including seafood.”

The coyly named restaurant also hints at the property’s happening bar scene, which features craft cocktails and presumably, a lot of the Beautiful People. (After all, Condé Nast Traveler has called the Meat Market on Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road one of “Miami’s Buzziest Restaurants.” )

Lunch will be served in Boca Raton and at a Meat Market opening in Tampa this summer.

In the five years since Meat Market opened at the site of the old Palm Beach Steakhouse at 191 Bradley Place on the island, business has been strong. But Tornek said he was attracted to Boca Raton due to its continued growth, including the population bounce the area has seen from changes in the tax law that are driving more residents south from high-tax states in the Northeast.

“Palm Beach County is changing. It’s not like it was five years ago,” Tornek said. In fact, he said he’s been searching for a Boca Raton location for two years, finally settling on the Renaissance Hotel.

The moves come as central Boca Raton becomes an increasingly lively center with new eateries coming up soon, as developers work on long-term plans to add more homes and shops.

In the near term, look for fresh offerings at old centers, such as the Boca Center on 5151 Town Center Circle, down the street from the Renaissance Hotel. Boca Center is owned by Boca Raton-based Crocker Partners, which built the property years ago, sold it, and then bought it back.

At Boca Center, George Anagnostou is bringing Copperfish Kitchen to the former Uncle Tai’s restaurant space, a longtime landmark that closed last year when the owner decided to retire.

Prakas, of Prakas & Co., brought this deal to the Boca Center and is working to bring new restaurants to other Crocker properties, including a planned “Restaurant Row” on land Crocker owns nearby at Town Center Road and Butts Road.

Anagnostou, whose background is in both restaurants and seafood importing, pledges the space will feature only fish that is traceable and sustainable. The species will be authentic, he said, unlike a lot of fish that is labeled one thing at restaurants but really is another.

Copperfish is under construction now, but when finished, the restaurant will feature copper along the walls and atop the bar, according to renderings. The contemporary vibe will be modern but comfortable, with accents of blue above the space and creatively crafted lighting throughout.

The exterior walls of the restaurant are being opened to allow indoor-outdoor dining. There will be a lively bar in front and quiet seating in back, plus a private dining room.

Anagnostou said there will be nothing like it in the area: “I think people are going to be in for a huge surprise.” Lunch and brunch will be offered, as well as dinner. Expect an early summertime opening.

In 2020, also expect to see more destination eateries flourishing in this central part of Boca Raton.

Angelo Bianco, principal of Crocker Partners, said permits have been submitted to the city to build Restaurant Row, a 22,500-square foot dining mecca on the corner of Butts Road and Town Center Road.

Crocker is close to nailing down deals with Mexican, Italian, American and sushi restaurants, plus a coffee/dessert eatery. If all goes well, the building’s shell will be built by early 2020, at which point the restaurant operators will start their build-outs, with expected opening dates for the eateries by the fall of 2020, Bianco said.

Crocker Partners has greater ambitions for its holdings in central Boca Raton. But thus far, it has not won city zoning approval to make changes.

In January 2018, several landowners, Crocker included, asked city officials to allow up to 2,500 apartment units in high-rise buildings in this central Boca Raton commercial district along Military Trail, known as Midtown.

The city council instead called for a “small-area plan” to assess the request, which sparked a litany of lawsuits that claim the study was a tactic to stall or stymie development. Crocker just filed its third lawsuit against the city.

The battles with the city may have slowed the progress of redeveloping Midtown, but Prakas is optimistic that growth will continue in Palm Beach County for the foreseeable future, attracting businesses from across the state and the country that want a piece of the action. “It’s the most vibrant market for restaurants I’ve ever seen,” Prakas said.