Pompano Beach CRA Rejects Apt. Project- Find Out Why; See What It Would’ve Looked Like
In an unusual move the CRA rejected a proposal to build an Art Loft citing the suggested rents were too high.
By Marie Puleo, Pompano Beach News Reporter
POMPANO BEACH DEVELOPMENT: At its meeting last Tuesday, the Pompano Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Board decided unanimously not to accept an unsolicited proposal from a developer to build an 80-unit mixed-use housing development, called Boulevard Art Lofts, in the Northwest CRA district.
Don Patterson, president and CEO of REVA Development Corporation, located in Fort Lauderdale, presented the plan, which consists of one-, two- and three-bedroom units with rents between $1,263 and $2,653 per month. Even though Patterson said the project was meant to provide housing with workforce and market rate rents, the CRA Board felt the rents were too high for the area.
In addition, the Board decided that it will issue a solicitation for a developer to see what other proposals there might be.
The Art Lofts project was proposed for a site on NW Fourth Street, directly north of an area known as the Innovation District, which is being developed as a ‘new’ urbanized downtown.
According to Patterson, the project would help eliminate “slum and blight” in the area, and provide workforce and market rate housing that is in keeping with the master plan of the Innovation District.
Patterson said the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s designation for current affordable and fair market rents was instrumental in helping to determine what the pricing would be. The workforce housing rents would be a maximum 30 percent of a household’s gross annual income.
One resident said during the public comment period: “If you’re building it in the NW district, I think the residents should have the opportunity to be able to take advantage of this beautiful place. It’s not fair to them to put the building there, and then they can’t afford to live there.”
Commissioner Andrea McGee, a real estate broker, echoed those concerns.
Patterson said it’s “very difficult” to introduce market rate units into the northwest community, and “this is an attempt to do just that.”
“I think we do need to have market rate rentals,” said McGee. “My concern is that these numbers are so off of what the market is actually demanding right now.”
Vice Mayor Barry Moss prefaced his comments by saying he had been a real estate appraiser for 24 years.
“Your vision is very good,” Moss told Patterson. “I just want to make sure that this will work. With [those rents] I just don’t see it working in that area at this particular time.”
Commissioner Rhonda Eaton said it was “a wonderful concept, a beautiful design,” but that because there are a great number of CRA- or City-owned properties in the area surrounding the site of the proposed project, the planning process for development should be more cohesive.
“It just seems to me it might be more prudent for the City, as a whole, to sort of slow down and take a look and kind of re-strategize what might be good for the area.”
Commissioner Beverly Perkins, who represents District 4, in which the project was being proposed, said she liked the project and felt it would “enhance the community,” but the rents needed to be lowered to make it affordable for people in the surrounding area.
“I would hate for this particular project to fail,” she told Patterson.
Perkins made a motion to postpone the item until the next CRA meeting, rather than turn the proposal down, so Patterson could look at the going rental rates in the surrounding area and come back with “better numbers.”
Patterson said he “strongly believed” there was a way to do that. The motion failed to get a second.
Mayor Rex Hardin said the project was “a very attractive product,” but “I think it’s too much too soon for this neighborhood.”
If the Board had accepted Patterson’s unsolicited proposal, a development agreement would have been negotiated.
As part of the deal, Patterson was offering to purchase the CRA-owned land that makes up the project site for $1.6 million. The CRA-owned land includes seven of 13 properties recently purchased by the CRA from the Grisham family of the northwest community.
CRA Executive Director Greg Harrison, who also serves as the city manager, recommended that the Board reject the proposal and advertise a request for proposals (RFP) for the entire land assemblage to see what proposals other developers might have.
“We won’t know if we don’t ask,” he said.
Harrison said that, in the meantime Patterson could continue perfecting his proposal, should he want to resubmit it.
By issuing an RFP for a developer, the CRA will get to better define what it wants to see on the land, and what is in the best interest of the public, said CRA Director Nguyen Tran.
An RFP will not be issued any time soon, said Tran, as the Grisham properties need to be environmentally remediated to meet all state and federal requirements.
A percentage of the units in the Art Lofts project were set aside as housing for artists, to encourage the development of the arts in Pompano Beach. The project included galleries, studios and a community business center.
Patterson said the anticipated cost of the project was $24 million, which would be financed through Opportunity Zone Funds, a recently created program that is regulated by the federal government, as opposed to a low-come housing tax credit.
The project lies within one of two “opportunity zones” in Pompano Beach. The program allows investors to defer paying taxes on capital gains they invest in these opportunity zones, which are areas that could use a financial boost.
The Arts Lofts project differs from the recently built City Vista residential development, also in the NW CRA district, in that City Vista rents are based on low-income housing.
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