Makeover for Downtown Plazas Moves Forward
Similar to what other Broward cities have done with old commercial buildings, the Margate Community Redevelopment Agency (MCRA) has figurative broken ground on fixing up two downtown plazas: The Margate Shopping Center, aka Ace Hardware Plaza on Margate Boulevard; and the Chevy Chase Plaza at the southwest corner of Margate Boulevard and 441.
The synthetic relining of wastewater infrastructure (right) underground has begun and a color palette chosen for the plazas. Re-grading and resurfacing of parking lots are included in plans, along various choices for signage outside "box” signs now available on roof facades for tenants. Trademarked signs will be honored, said property manager for upgrades, Advanced Asset Management.
Business owners will be encouraged to spill out onto already wide sidewalks with sales and outdoor cafes, said city officials. Plazas (photos at bottom) are already connected by aesthetically pleasing sidewalks and streetscapes installed by the MCRA a few years back.
Margate Mayor, Anthony Caggiano, said he would like to see both plazas completed by the City’s July 4th celebration, notwithstanding unforeseen circumstances as the project moves forward. A worker on the project said a more realistic deadline would be one plaza by August. (Click for Margate City Center Page)
Goals in makeovers include providing ‘below market’ rents for entrepreneurs, along with maintaining government ownership and oversight of plazas as a bona-fide taxpayer asset. Plazas together generate nearly $50,000 monthly in rents, in turn offsetting operating costs while city-owned land appreciates. (Click to View Rent Roll 2018)
Based on projected rent revenues of $666,701 in Fiscal Year 2019 offset by $230,000 in property maintenance costs - excluding miscellaneous materials that accompany repairs and services; budget figures indicate that plazas may be close to breakeven on the MCRA's combined purchase of $7.6 million* for the two plazas in 2007 (Click to View MCRA FY2019 Budget).
Notably the quasi-government organization has had its share of mismanagement and overspending, resulting in inquires by the Broward Inspector General. (Below: Beige to supplant gray as sidewalk color)
Once plaza upgrades are complete, rents will increase slightly for tenants and Common Area Maintenance (CAM) fees are inevitable. Regardless, rents will remain significantly lower than numerous storefront counterparts across Margate and in neighboring cities. The two downtown plazas boast wide overhangs, enabling outdoor dining in the rain and sidewalk shopping without getting wet – a boon for shop owners willing to thrive on reasonable margins while offering affordable products and services to thousands of working-class within walking and biking distance. A five-minute drive for thousands more.
A challenge for making this new downtown click is for property managers to create a balance of tenants that promote a synergy among plazas and tenants. Moving forward, tenants must cater to the needs of Margate’s "Hometown Feel” and provide products and services in line with Margate’s median and household incomes. Solid marketing plans will be key to limiting vacancy rates.
Tough questions will have to be asked.
Is a Beauty Supply Mega-Store the best and highest way to attract consumers to the Chevy Chase Plaza? The same said for a giant thrift store warehouse with downscale clothing and goods.
How many barbershops and nail salons should operate downtown? Margate is flush with these business types.
Should establishments that sell alcohol beverages be required to offer a full menu?
Should smoking be allowed on outdoor cafes?
How much office space should fuel plazas and to what extent is the desire of the MCRA to make downtown an activity/leisure center, bustling with local consumers?
What will minimal standards be for business interiors, some of which now are rough-shod in need of electric, plumbing and ceiling work?
Will businesses be required to have ADA access for restrooms?
Will window sign rules be consistent and enforced?
Should the MCRA as landlord require prospective tenants to escrow capital contingent to signing a lease?
Will the City offer incentives to existing business owners to aid in trademarking signs, installing outdoor cafes and upgrading interiors?
With more successful storefronts will come more vehicles. Is there a plan to enhance parking facilities beyond regrading and resurfacing existing lots?
Will CCTV monitor storefronts, parking lots, and streets to discourage criminal activity and enhance consumer safety, in particular at night?
Should some existing leases not be renewed or limited to 30-day outs?
Both plazas, along with a third since demolished on the northwest corner of Margate Boulevard and 441, had thrived up until the late 1990s and turn of the millennia. Government meddling eventually led a decline in downtown business and an exodus of tenants who left rents hanging after making midnight moves from plazas. Tens of thousands of dollars was lost. Oversight of MCRA assets was befudded by powers at be and an area once bustling with people turned empty, desolate and lifeless.
Elected officials now want to change that. Fix up what the city has, and if all goes well continue foster a downtown Margate that exemplifies the "Hometown Feel” envisioned in theCity of Margate Strategic Plan. One that includes and abundance of public spaces, waterfront (back of old Swap shop entrance to Lemon Tree Lake) canoe/kayak rentals , a bandshell/amphitheater for events and potentially a community center.
A majority of elected officials on the dais may or may not approve a limited number of apartments for downtown, but have expressed on the record numerous times that city-owned lands should in large part benefit Margate taxpayers, not developers.
*Margate Shopping Center built in 1961-62 purchased by the city for $3 million in 2007
*Chevy Chase Plaza built in 1971-72 purchased for $4.6 million by the city in 2007
(Click for Map of MCRA Area Margate)
(Below: Margate Shopping Center top; Chevy Chase Plaza bottom)