POMPANO BEACH ISLE CASINO REDEVELOPMENT: A MAJOR CHANGE IN PLANS DUE TO COVID-19
BY MARIE PULEO | POMPANO BEACH REAL ESTATE AND DEVELOPMENT REPORTER
POMPANO BEACH ISLE CASINO REDEVELOPMENT: The Live! Resorts Pompano development project – which will transform the Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park into an entertainment, hotel, dining, retail, residential and office hub – is being revised to add 1.5 million square feet of industrial use that is expected to bring over 1,200 new jobs to Pompano Beach. The revised plans, which are currently making their way through the City’s approval process, would reduce the project’s office component by 650,000 square feet in order to add the industrial use.
The proposed changes are a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Debbie Orshefsky, the attorney representing the developer, The Cordish Companies, which develops, owns and operates Live! entertainment destinations across the country.
Orshefsky told the Planning and Zoning Board at its Aug. 26 virtual meeting that because Live! Resorts Pompano was so linked to entertainment uses, the development team had to rethink the project.
The incorporation of the industrial use is to address “dramatic changes in the office and commercial recreation market.”
The developer has attracted a warehouse distribution and logistics firm that wants to establish an over one-million-square-foot facility on the project site, which is located on the southeast corner of Powerline Road and SW 3rd Street (Racetrack Road).
Orshefsky did not disclose the name of the firm, but said it would “generate approximately 1,200 jobs immediately, which is a shot in the arm in ways that are unimaginable in the current COVID situation that we’re in.”
She said the proposed industrial use, which wasn’t originally contemplated, will be a catalyst for the live-work-play uses that will also be part of the development.
The majority of the industrial use is expected be in the northeast corner of the project site, which is also slated for office space. The industrial use would have frontage on Racetrack Road, but could also extend southward to a portion of the site that was originally slotted for 400-foot-tall residential buildings.
There was concern expressed by some members of the Planning and Zoning Board that if the industrial use extends south, it could infringe upon the Cypress Bend residential community.
Orshefsky said there “would certainly be a sensitivity factor” in terms of adding more buffering and what the southern edge of a future industrial building would look like. The industrial building would likely be 50 to 75 feet high.
Jean Dolan of the city’s Development Services Department said it would be more than a year before the distribution and logistics warehouse got under way, taking into account the various approvals that are needed.
In order to add the industrial use and decrease the office space, the developer is requesting a land use plan amendment that would modify the entitlements of the project site’s existing land use designation, which is “Regional Activity Center.”
The square footage trade-off was calculated based on the amount of traffic generation, said Dolan. With the added industrial use and the decreased office use, the number of trips are slightly less.
Dolan said there is 1.35 million square feet of office use remaining, and the developer could still attract a corporate headquarters, which is part of the vision of the project.
The Planning and Zoning Board unanimously approved the developer’s request for the land use plan amendment, which is now scheduled to go before the City Commission on Sept. 8 for first reading.
The amendment will then be reviewed by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) and other state agencies. It is expected to be brought back to the City Commission on Oct. 27. The land use plan amendment must also be approved at the County level.
It is the second land use change requested for the project site. Last September, the developer got final approval for a land use plan amendment that added another 2,800 multi-family residential units to the 1,300 multi-family residential units already permitted (for a total of 4,100 units), and increased the office space. It reduced commercial recreation use, as well as commercial use, primarily retail space.
Concurrent with the second land use plan amendment, the developer submitted an application to rezone the project site to permit certain industrial park uses, including “warehouse, distribution or storage.”
The rezoning request would also significantly amend the site’s open space plan. The previously approved plan featured a crystal lagoon occupying 12 to 15 acres of the recreation area, and serving as a focal point for the development. The lagoon, projected to cost about $1.5 million per acre, would have a special liner using a patented filtration system to keep the water clean and clear, like a big swimming pool, and would be used for activities such as swimming, kayaking and paddle boating.
The proposed plan reduces the crystal lagoon to a minimum of 1.5 acres, but introduces a minimum 12-acre natural lake adjacent to the lagoon. The lake would be a recreational amenity for boating, fishing and other water-based activities, and would also provide stormwater drainage necessary for the development.
The lake will be open to the general public, not just residents of the development, said Orshefsky.
The Planning and Zoning Board unanimously approved the rezoning request at its Aug. 26 meeting, and it is scheduled to go to the City Commission on Sept. 8 for first reading.
The project site was rezoned in September 2019 as a Planned Commercial Development (PCD) district to encourage a mix of employment-generating uses, entertainment uses and residential units.
Concern was voiced by a member of the Planning and Zoning Board and a member of the public that there were no community outreach meetings regarding the proposed changes to the Isle Casino redevelopment plans.
Orshefsky said it’s difficult to do community outreach under the COVID-19 circumstances, but committed to having more in-person outreach when the situation normalizes, and before a site plan comes out for the recreation area.
Orshefsky noted that it is not unusual for a large-scale project such as Live! Resorts Pompano, on the 232-gross acre Isle Casino site, to go through various evolutions.
Planning and Zoning Board Chair Fred Stacer, and others, expressed concern about truck traffic that would be coming in and out of the distribution center.
Orshefsky said there will be major access points directly onto Racetrack Road for truck traffic, including one fully signalized intersection and one right-in right-out access.
Stacer said he was especially worried about the intersections at Powerline Road and Racetrack Road and Powerline Road and Atlantic Boulevard, which “are pretty busy even today,” and suggested that rather than using Powerline Road to get to the Turnpike or I-95, trucks should use Racetrack Road, and then head east to South Andrews Avenue.
The developer’s traffic consultant said a traffic analysis is being carried out, and will require approval from the Florida Department of Transportation.
The project may include a Tri-Rail station along the CSX Railroad, just east of the development site. The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) has approved a resolution supporting the potential Tri-Rail station.
Orshefsky said the high number of employees generated by the proposed industrial use, which will be adjacent to the railroad track, supports the idea of creating a Tri-Rail station.
The station would cost $16-20 million, but 75% of the cost is available through federal funding, said Orshefsky. The developer will be applying for that funding in cooperation with the SFRTA, the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the City and the County.
A full buildout of the Live! Resorts Pompano development project will include several phases and could take up to 10 years to complete.
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