Riviera approves revamp of mall

RIVIERA BEACH After three decades, the Ocean Mall on Singer Island will get a $280 million makeover.

In a 4-1 vote, the Riviera Beach Community Redevelopment Agency board approved allowing builder Dan Catalfumo to lease 11 acres of public beach to construct a 28-story Marriott hotel/condo and 60,000 square feet of shops and restaurants.

 

The vote came abruptly when board member Norma Duncombe called for it in a fit of frustration. Duncombe said it was time for Riviera Beach to start its redevelopment effort and stop just talking about it.

"I've listened to both sides," Duncombe said. "People are ready to move. I'm ready to move."

However, before the vote, City Councilman Jim Jackson made a plea for his colleagues to postpone the vote in light of a petition drive aiming to change the Ocean Mall deal. Jackson, the lone dissenter, said the vote on the project should be delayed until the March 2007 election.

"If we vote on this, we're going against the will of the people," Jackson said.

The project replaces the 33-year-old Ocean Mall on Singer Island and jump-starts the city's stalled $2.4 billion waterfront redevelopment.

"This is a great thing that's happened to the city," Catalfumo said following the vote. "It's going to be an incredible asset."

The deal was approved late Monday by the city council, which convened in a special meeting immediately after the CRA meeting. Council members also serve as members of the CRA board.

The project has been billed as providing jobs, enriching the CRA's coffers by millions and making Riviera Beach a major tourist destination.

Catalfumo, as a concession to get the deal, reduced his request to lease the public beach from 99 years to 50 years. Although the deal is based on 50 years, the board voted to give him an option for 99 years if the petition to keep the lease at 50 years fails.

The project has been scaled back from three massive towers with time-shares to one hotel/condo and the retail shops and restaurants.

Dawn Pardo, chairwoman of the Public Beach Coalition, launched the petition drive in October after the council voted to change its city charter and increase the lease on the public beach to 99 years. Residents argued that the council didn't have the authority to change the charter without a vote of the residents.

Pardo said residents will push to get the petition issues on the ballot.

In addition to 50 years, the ballot issues include keeping building height on the public beach at five stories and using the land only for tourism and recreation.

But Pardo's group is fighting with City Clerk Carrie Ward. Ward has ruled that most of the approximately 4,000 signatures gathered are invalid.

Pardo said that Ward shouldn't have the final say on the issue, and that it's up to the council to place the issues on the ballot. The council is scheduled to discuss the petitions at its Wednesday meeting.

"The elected officials should determine whether or not this goes to referendum," said Pardo, who promised that her group would sue the city if the issue isn't handled properly.

"They owe it to the citizens of Riviera Beach."