| Palm Beach Post
RIVIERA BEACH — The city’s 15-year slog to redevelop its waterfront into a showcase of shops, apartments and hotel fell into doubt this week, after a well-known economic consultant questioned its feasibility and the chosen developers’ ability to pull off the $375 million project.
After a three-hour-long Community Redevelopment Agency meeting Wednesday, city council members acting as the CRA board gave development team of APD Solutions Real Estate Group and Tezral Partners 90 days to document that their joint venture had the wherewithal to make its Marina Village proposal happen.
The vote came after economist Hank Fishkind told the council the project made no sense financially and that the developers failed to prove they were qualified. Representatives of the joint venture, including former CRA director Tony Brown, countered that they’d never been asked for the specific documents Fishkind wanted to demonstrate their viability.
A skeptical Councilwoman Shirley Lanier sought to kill the deal. But the majority rejected her motion and voted to give the developers time to document their ability to finance the project, in light of their assertion the information request from Fishkind had not been communicated to them, a point Fishkind and the CRA director disputed.
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“We have to have all the facts,” Councilwoman KaShamba Miller-Anderson said. If the developers don’t supply what’s requested, she added, she would vote to kill the project.
The city agreed to talks with the joint venture last October, setting in motion what could be the biggest redevelopment project in Riviera Beach history. The plan calls for a 130-room hotel, 225,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, up to 320 workforce apartment units, 1,600 parking spaces, as well as attractions and entertainment activities that would take place in Bicentennial Park.
The project, to include more than 56,000 square feet of retail space designated for local entrepreneurs, would create 1,300 jobs, Brown said at the time.
Fishkind, hired by the CRA to evaluate the project, said his research found the proposal devoted too much space for retail and too little for housing. And the project wouldn’t generate enough revenue to support its proposed garage, he said.
He also said plans to have the city guarantee the project’s debt service and provide other money and finance research that is normally the responsibility of a developer amounted to evidence the development team lacked financial muscle.
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“We recommend you reject this program and start anew or provide a very short time period, say a month, for the development team to submit a financial plan,” said the economist, who consults for municipalities across the state.
Fishkind and CRA Executive Director Scott Evans said they had told the development team by phone what financial documents were needed, and that Evans followed that up with an email request.
Team executives Vaughn Irons and Brown said they provided what was requested and have the equity and backing to complete the project. The issue became whether Evans’ email had been specific enough.
Lanier said the developers’ failure to satisfy Fishkind “just smacks of real bad faith.”
But Councilman Tradrick McCoy said that in the face of apparent miscommunication between the agency and the developers, he didn’t want to “pigeonhole” the developers.
The board voted 4-1,with Lanier objecting, to give the developers another chance to prove themselves.
Riviera Beach Marina Village is a 23-acre area between the Intracoastal Waterway and U.S. 1 that the city and CRA have spent about $35 million to prepare for redevelopment.
The first phase opened in 2016, with a two-story Marina Event Center and a pavilion at a revamped Bicentennial Park with a children’s splash park. Plans for the second phase called for the mixed-use project on 6 acres located within the interior of the district, which fronts the city marina.
The goal was to open the second phase by the spring of 2021.