Downtown Development on Front Burner at Public Meeting Wednesday


Downtown developers once again will come before elected officials Wednesday to discuss potential alterations to City Center concepts. Granted an opportunity in February to make substantial changes to their site plan, New Urban Communities is sticking with a densely populated downtown with 980 apartments. The meeting takes place Wednesday April 12th at 7 p.m. in City Hall Chambers 5790 Margate Blvd. “I don’t want any of it,” Margate Mayor, Tommy Ruzzano told MargateNews.net. As indicated in backup materials on the city’s website, the gist of the plan is to turn 36-acres of taxpayer owned property into a giant apartment complex, featuring three and four story walk-up apartments and a smattering of mixed use buildings with businesses. In granting developers a site plan extension in February, elected officials hoped that architects would reduce the number of apartments and design a downtown that caters to Margate residents living here now, not future apartment dwellers. Now on its third developer in ten years, the City and its Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) has received feedback from Margate residents largely centered on a downtown where people can hang-out, eat, shop and be entertained. Not one cluttered with apartments and fields of asphalt for parking. Adding to taxpayer frustration is the sale of their land at a discount to construct something most don’t want. While some are wowed by the $150 million in investment developers say the new downtown will attract, one would be hard pressed to find homeowners who say they moved to Margate to enjoy urban living, or that the sale of $30 million of their land for $10 million to a developer is a value. Add insult to injury, taxpayers will not only lose millions in the sale, they will pay forward for their own community center - the cost of which is estimated between $6-$10 million - along with a waterfront pavilion and other public amenities. Developers say that unless the downtown is densely populated with apartment units, downtown businesses will not survive - an approach adopted over the years by the development community whose profits are larger when building apartments than businesses. Notably, the whole of the downtown area is already surrounded by residences, so businesses will have no shortage of patrons. Gridlock is a daily event in Margate. Thoroughfares leading in and out of the city are stacked and backed during peak commuter hours with motorists passing through Margate to access the Florida Turnpike and the Interstate. A thousand apartments downtown can only add to the chaos, because the majority of residents there will have to leave the city for work. Margate isn't known for an abundance of high paying jobs. As evidenced by developers “lawyering up” at a March meeting with elected officials, there’s been rumors of developers suing the city if Margate backs out of its signed developer agreement. To this end, they'll be known by peers and colleagues as suing a client for a poorly conceived, haphazard plan that few liked. Not good for business. As for elected officials Joanne Simone and Lesa Peerman; the two favor a densely populated downtown and are okay with selling the land at a third of its market value. Oddly, these two recently squabbled over a $500 monthly car allowance for elected officials. In contrast, Mayor Ruzzano, Vice Mayor, Arlene Schwartz, and Commissioner Anthony Caggiano campaigned against the New Urban proposal while on the way to office in November (Ruzzano was re-elected unopposed). If these three can halt the loss of $20 million in taxpayer dollars, the elected officials have earned their keep. That said, the City of Margate has a reputation for commissioners flip-flopping once elected to the dais. Time will tell how these three fare in the before and after. See the site plan, along with comments by CRA staff at https://margatefl.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3015422&GUID=5D428F2E-A07B-4AA4-817E-D1D312C5481F&Options=&Search=&FullText=1

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