BY MARIE PULEO | POMPANO BEACH REAL ESTATE AND DEVELOPMENT REPORTER
POMPANO BEACH ISLE CASINO REDEVELOPMENT: The developer of the Live! Resorts Pompano project – which will transform the Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park into an entertainment, hotel, dining, retail, residential and office hub – got final approval from the City Commission last week to add an over one-million-square-foot e-commerce distribution warehouse to the plans.
A number of residents in the Cypress Bend community to the south of the project site, and the Palm Aire neighborhood to the west, are not in favor of adding the industrial use to the project, mainly due to concerns over the truck traffic that would be coming in and out of the distribution center.
In order to accommodate the warehouse distribution facility, the developer requested a land use plan amendment to reduce the project’s two million square feet of office use by 650,000 square feet and to add 1.5 million square feet of industrial use.
During its virtual meeting on Oct. 27, the City Commission approved the requested land use change on second reading in a 5:1 vote, after lengthy discussion. Vice Mayor Barry Moss of District 5, where the project site is located, cast the only ‘no’ vote.
The land use change must also be approved at the county level, which is expected to be completed in about six months.
The revised plans are a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The Cordish Companies, the developer of the project site, which is located on the southeast corner of Powerline Road and SW 3rd Street (Racetrack Road).
David Cordish, Chairman of The Cordish Companies, told the Commission that in today’s COVID world and a post-COVID world, where people are working remotely, the reduced office space is “much more fitting.”
Cordish said everything else that was promised in the original plans will still be delivered. The plans include building over 4,000 residential units, neighborhood retail, an entertainment district, a maximum of 950 hotel rooms, an expanded casino, and a lake surrounded by a park.
The Baltimore-based Cordish Companies develops, owns and operates Live! entertainment destinations across the country.
Debbie Orshefsky, the attorney representing the developer, said the industrial warehouse use will occupy the majority of the east side of the Isle Casino property. The entire property is 232 acres, and the industrial warehouse use will cover approximately 90 acres.
The industrial use will have frontage on Racetrack Road. It will be prohibited on the west side of the project site, which means it will not front Powerline Road.
Cordish said the e-commerce distribution and logistics firm is “world-renowned,” but the name currently cannot be disclosed due to a non-disclosure agreement.
According to the developer, the e-commerce distribution facility will create 1,000-1,200 jobs, and will “jump start” the Live! Resorts Pompano project in a difficult economic environment. The rest of the development is expected to create 16,000 permanent jobs.
PROTECTING THE NEIGHBORS TO THE SOUTH
Orshefsky told the Commission that, in response to community input – including a Zoom webinar held on Oct. 15, which had almost 300 participants – modifications were made to the plans to mitigate some concerns.
In addition to truck traffic, concern was expressed that the industrial buildings would come too close to the Cypress Bend condominiums to the south.
Orshefsky said that in addition to the 50-foot buffer originally planned along the entire southern edge of the project site, a 200-foot-deep buffer area restricted to landscaping and parking has been added at the south end of the area designated for industrial use. A landscaped berm and a 20-foot-high sound barrier wall are also being added within the 50-foot buffer.
In order to create the extra 200-foot buffer, an area at the north end of the project site fronting Racetrack Road was added as potential industrial use.
Mayor Rex Hardin voted in favor of adding the e-commerce facility, but voiced strong concern about what it will look like at the south end, which faces the Cypress Bend community.
Orshefsky said the height of the industrial buildings is anticipated to be 50-75 feet, although some of them may have an office component and could be higher.
David Cordish explained that Cypress Bend residents may be able to see the top of the office component, but not warehouse bays, tractors or trailers because they will be blocked by the landscaping berm, sound wall and trees.
Vice Mayor Moss said there are some Cypress Bend buildings that are 10-stories high, and the upper floors will be able to “see everything,” despite the berm and sound wall.
Cordish said his company, in its own self-interest, has to make sure the e-commerce facility is attractive and well-buffered, not just for the residents of Cypress Bend, but for the future residents within the Live! Resorts Pompano development, who will be within 100 feet of the e-commerce.
“We’re confident we can do that because of the self-contained nature of what we’re putting over there,” said Cordish.
Hardin told the developer to “do what you need to do” to make sure the residents who live in Cypress Bend will be looking over at a beautiful building and lush landscaping, because a view of a 30-foot roll-up door “won’t work.”
EASING TRUCK TRAFFIC FEARS
Addressing the concern about truck traffic, Orshefsky said: “We have now created a restricted access point, where semi-trucks will be required to enter and exit the site.”
When leaving the site, trucks will be routed to the intersection of Racetrack Road and Andrews Avenue, and then up to Atlantic Boulevard and onto I-95.
“This is the most efficient and cost effective way for truck traffic to travel,” said Orshefsky, as opposed to taking the Turnpike, which is further away and has tolls.
Truck movement will be prohibited west on Racetrack Road and through the property onto Powerline Road.
Orshefsky explained that an extensive traffic study carried out by the developer, and accepted by the city, in 2019, identified 18 intersections that needed improvements, including the intersection of Atlantic Boulevard and Powerline Road, and the intersection of Racetrack Road and Andrews Avenue.
Due to the incorporation of the e-commerce activity, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has asked the developer to do a new traffic study of several locations, including the I-95 interchange, to make sure that, even though trucks are using them today, the roadways are operating at acceptable levels of service. That study is currently underway, and will be reviewed by FDOT and the county.
In an effort to further allay concerns about truck traffic, Orshefsky added that a site plan for the e-commerce warehouse facility will be “fully vetted and analyzed” by the City, in terms of truck noise and access.
The developer anticipates the site plan for the e-commerce facility will be submitted to the City in the next 3-6 months.
A COMMUNITY BENEFITS PARTNERSHIP
Orshefsky announced that The Cordish Companies is creating a community advisory committee made up of civic leaders from each district in the city.
“We want to work with a broad range of stakeholders to make sure that the economic benefits of this development are shared widely,” said Orshefsky.
In late January or early February, a community action plan that has been endorsed by the community advisory committee will be brought to the City Commission, said Orshefsky.
David Cordish said a community benefits partnership is always part of a Cordish Companies development.
PROFITS OVER PEOPLE?
Vice Mayor Moss said he and his constituents were “wildly enthusiastic” when the original plans for Live! Resorts Pompano were first announced, but adding the industrial component changed the equation, and as a commissioner, put him “between a rock and a hard place.”
Moss said he received over 100 e-mails from his constituents, and the majority of them were not in favor of the e-commerce facility.
While Moss is still enthusiastic about what the rest of the project is going to be, he said the e-commerce distribution facility is not what the developer promised.
Moss said he realizes the e-commerce facility will be good for the tax base of Pompano Beach and will generate jobs, but it will be an “enormous industrial warehouse” with hundreds of 18-wheeler trucks operating 24 hours a day, traversing the city, “belching toxic diesel fuel, making noise and affecting the 2,000 or so people who live in Cypress Bend just a matter of feet away.”
Moss asked the other commissioners: “What is more important: profits or people?
Commissioner Rhonda Eaton supported the addition of the e-commerce facility because of the jobs it will create for Pompano Beach residents “during this very trying economic time.”
Eaton said many people in the city are suffering economically because they’re out of work.
“It is not profits over people,” she said. “It is the ability to bring profit to the people.”
David Cordish noted that there will be workforce priority preference for the local community not only for the initial 1,200 jobs created by the e-commerce component, but also for the 16,000 jobs that are expected to be created overall.
The City will host events for residents to apply for jobs, or to apply for training to be able to be qualified for the new jobs.
Commissioner Andrea McGee commended The Cordish Companies for adapting as quickly as they did to the trend of more people working from home than in the office due to COVID-19.
McGee also noted that many distribution companies are moving towards using electric or hybrid electric vehicles, which are quieter, more energy efficient and have less of an impact on the environment.
Commissioner Beverly Perkins said she voted against adding the e-commerce facility on first reading in September because she understood “the concerns of our vice mayor and the position that he’s in, as far as listening to the residents and trying to make a decision.”
However, “looking at the bigger picture, she strongly supports the project now, and thinks it is for “the betterment of the whole city.”
She does have concerns about truck traffic, and wants the developer to come back to the community with a plan to better control it.
Commissioner Tom McMahon said he was “very excited about the job growth,” and agreed that consideration had to be given to the benefits the e-commerce facility would bring to the city as a whole.
Hardin said he understood there is “tremendous angst right now” among some residents about the distribution center, not knowing what it will look like and what the impacts will be.
“A similar situation happened in our beach area,” said Hardin. “When we were trying to do upgrades in that area, people were fearful,” but now you look at it, and “it turned out pretty good. I am confident that this will be another situation such as that.”
REZONING: INDUSTRIAL USE IS ADDED, CRYSTAL LAKE IS REDUCED
In addition to the land use plan amendment, the City Commission, in a separate 5:1 vote, approved on second reading an application from the developer to rezone the project site to permit limited industrial park uses, including warehouse, distribution, e-commerce, clean manufacturing, and research and development facilities.
The rezoning request significantly amends the project site’s open space plan. The previously approved plan featured a 12- to 15-acre crystal lagoon surrounded by an active public park, and serving as a focal point for the development. The lagoon, like a big swimming pool, would be used for activities such as swimming, kayaking and paddle boating.
The new plan reduces the crystal lagoon to a minimum of 1.5 acres, but introduces a minimum 12-acre dug lake adjacent to the lagoon. The lake would be a recreational amenity open to the general public for boating, fishing and other water-based activities, but would also provide stormwater drainage necessary for the development.
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