It's over for some Ocean Mall tenants
Businesses to close by April

Posted: 2008 Mar 28 - 01:23
By Sarah Stover
Staff writer

SINGER ISLAND - Customers only have a few days left to visit some of their favorite stores or eateries at the Ocean Mall.

Palm Beach Gardens-based Catalfumo Construction and Development, the company that is redeveloping the 11 acres of property, has scratched its plan to build in phases and delivered evacuation notices to some businesses last month.

"Only those tenants with expired leases were given notice on Feb. 15 to vacate their premises on or before March 30," said Joey Eichner, president of Catalfumo Development and Management via e-mail.

Which businesses in the mall received notices is confidential information, he said.

The developer's plan to renovate the site was approved by the Riviera Beach City Council and City Redevelopment Agency Board, which are one and the same, in 2006.

The original plan called for a combined tower of 125 hotel rooms and 250 condominium units that would stand 300-feet high, as well as a revamped retail center. The mall was one part of the CRA's redevelopment plan, which was meant to improve the city as well as to increase revenue. However, residents had an issue with two aspects of the deal's terms, one being the length of the lease, the other, building height.

A 50-year lease with an automatic renewal of 49 years was part of the deal. Referendums passed by voters in last year's municipal election limited the length of the lease to 50 years and the height of any building constructed on the Ocean Mall to five stories.

The amendments caused the developer to change its plans. When Catalfumo representatives presented its new site plan to the CRA board and residents at the Hilton Hotel on Singer Island last June, they said construction would be completed in phases.

The first phase included the 60,000 square-foot retail building that will have three or four restaurants and stand one story tall, Mr. Eichner told those at the meeting.

The site plan they showed that day also included a green block on the northern side of the property labeled "future hotel site." The representatives would only say it was phase two and would not comment on it at that meeting.

Mr. Eichner said that if phase one was approved by the board, they would "like to be able to break ground by the first of the year."

But plans changed.

"During the design phase, we learned that phasing would cause several years of inconvenience to the tenants, patrons and residents, as well as significantly increasing costs," said Mr. Eichner.

Also, as the retail will be completed in one phase, the work on the hotel part of the project will begin sooner than planned, he said.

Although all the businesses knew their current establishments would be demolished at some point, and they were invited to become tenants in the new building, when the demolition would happen and how much time would elapse was a concern.

Prior to redevelopment, two buildings at the north end of the mall that had been empty since the hurricanes of 2004, were demolished in July 2006, which made redevelopment more of a reality for tenants.

"Eventually it's all gonna go, but nobody knows when. It would be nice if there was a plan. Just not knowing what's going to happen is very stressful. Downtime is what everyone's concerned about," said Helen Bole, manager of Portofino Sports Bar and Grill, at the time.

Downtime is definitely on Barbara Bartley's mind. The owner of Singer Island Boutique and Gifts is one of the tenants who received a notice. Since the mall was supposed to be reconstructed in phases she and some other tenants thought they had another 10 months left, she said, adding that she had ordered summer merchandise that had already been delivered.

A month to close a business is not enough time, said Ms. Bartley.

"Not when you've been there 12 years and you have (the amount of) merchandise I have. It was so inconsiderate."

She is still looking for another location as she will not move into the new mall and "there isn't very much on the island," said Ms. Bartley.

Catalfumo Construction and Development hopes to demolish the building in May. The construction of the retail portion should take about nine months, according to a previous statement from Mr. Eichner.