Mall lease still up in air

By Sarah Stover
Staff writer

Posted: 2006 Oct 20 - 01:24

SINGER ISLAND - An Oct. 11 discussion about the Ocean Mall project on Singer Island was three-fold.

First, Palm Beach Gardens-based developer Dan Catalfumo, who is taking over the 11-acre Ocean Mall property on Singer Island, wanted to correct misinformation.

Second, he wanted to go over the community benefits package, an effort put together between his company and Bernard Kinsey, who was hired to negotiate of the city's redevelopment projects.

Third, was a discussion on the leases (one for the hotel property and one for the retail center) and the executive agreement between the developer and the city.

The Riviera Beach City Council, sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, listened, then decided it needed more time to make a decision.

Miscommunication clarified

  "We spoke to residents and (it kept coming up) that (members of) Citizens for Responsible Growth were going out and talking about us building the hotel on the sand, and we felt it was important to give residents the correct information," said Josie  Hernandez, director of communications for Catalfumo. "We're creating a village atmosphere where the current Ocean Mall sits. Nothing is being built on the sand." Mr. Catalfumo echoed those sentiments when he addressed the CRA board.

"It's not encroaching on the sand. The city made it very clear three years ago they didn't want that and we've listened for three years," he said. An anonymous flier that has been circulating among businesses in the area misrepresented the plans in a drawing passed around to residents.

"Someone is purposely misinforming the public," said Mr. Catalfumo.

Bill Contole, president of Citizens for Responsible Growth, an organization of volunteers whose mission is to protect Riviera Beach from over development, thought it was the other way around.

"There's been some misinformation submitted by the developers," said Mr. Contole.

Mr. Catalfumo asked residents who signed a petition, started by Singer Island resident Dawn Pardo to protest the length of Catalfumo's lease on the Ocean Mall, to call the city clerk if they signed it, because they had the wrong information.

Ms. Pardo filed the petition on Oct. 6. She has 30 days to gather 2,942 signatures from 15 percent of the city's 19, 614 registered voters.

The petition states that expanding the mall's lease - from 50 to 99 years - is an issue that voters, and not the council, should decide.

There's a March election slated for Riviera Beach and Ms. Pardo's aim is to get this issue on the ballot.

"I think it's a shame this board is making Mr. Contole and Ms. Pardo go get signatures. (The board) should have voluntarily put the project on the ballot. If anything deserves a referendum, it's this project," said Fane Lozman, Riviera Beach Marina resident.

Beautification projects

After clarifying that the hotel is going to be 1,000 feet from the beach and that 400 parking spots currently available will still exist, Mr. Catafumo and Mr. Kinsey jointly presented the community benefits package, which includes money the developer will put toward beautifying the area west of the Ocean Mall property and enhancing the cultural and educational aspects of the city.

"We've earmarked $5 million for the beautification program," said Ms. Hernandez.

"We're putting up the dollars for the city in order for the project to do what the city wants it to do," said Mr. Catalfumo.

Half a million will go toward enhancing the landscape and fixing the bathrooms on the beach which are "old and beat up," said Ms. Hernandez.

Three million will go toward beautifying the area west of the project. Specifics were not available yet.

"We want to do something west of Broadway. (Those residents) won't buy a $1 million condo. They don't care about a million dollar condo, but they care about jobs," said Mr. Kinsey.

The package also includes money the developer plans to bring to the city in terms of at least 700 jobs. The developer has agreed to award 50 percent of the construction contracts for the 60,000-square-foot retail center to local businesses, of which 25 percent will go to African-American owned businesses. Fifteen percent of the construction contracts for the mixed hotel and condo 28-story tower will go to local companies.

While the package may have sweetened the pot, discussion about the contracts soured it.

Contracts: more discussion needed

Residents who attended the meeting got copies of the leases for the hotel and retail center and the executive agreement. Although they only had the length of the council meeting to read the three documents, residents already expressed concerns. Within the first three pages, the language stated that the property could become a condominium form of ownership and that the developer could transfer the lease, both without the city's approval.

The board shared the residents' concerns and asked for more time to review the contracts, so they could have a complete understanding of the terms.

Councilwoman Liz Wade asked to meet with Mr. Kinsey, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Wilkins.

"I expect it's going to take at least half a day to walk me through this," she said.

"I could not even consider signing my name to this (contract) without someone explaining it paragraph by paragraph to me," said Councilman Jim Jackson, who represents Singer Island.

A timetable for the board to review the contracts was not established.

Stover@hometownnewsol.com