Coral Springs downtown closer to gaining traction

Coral Springs wants visitors to do more than shop and eat at its planned downtown — it wants them to spend the night. And to do that, it plans to build an upscale hotel, a movie theater and urban housing.

The eight-story hotel will cater to business people, said George Rahael, CEO of Amera Urban Developers who is also the “master developer” of the downtown quadrants at University Drive and Sample Road.

The movie theater will be on the second floor. City officials said the theater will mimic the tony iPic Theater in Boca Raton, which has reclining seats, offers blankets and pillows, and allows customers to order food and drinks from their seats.

City officials said the plan is months away from being finalized.

For decades, the city has talked about, debated and spent money studying the possibility of creating a downtown at University and Sample.

Among the plans: high-end rental apartments at each of the four corners, new boutiques and restaurants.

The residences will create a “captive audience” of people who “need things and they need to eat,” said Assistant City Manager Susan Grant.

The city plans to spend millions of dollars to build a multi-story parking garage to help encourage new businesses to move into the downtown.

“Something’s going to happen,” said Vice Mayor Larry Vignola. “We’ve talked about this for 20 years. We are so close right now. We’ve never been this close to having shovels in the ground. It’s an exciting time to be a resident and to put Coral Springs back on the map.”

Critics of the city’s plans have long argued that the intersection is busy and dangerous for pedestrians.

“It’s already full and already dangerous,” said commission candidate and activist Howard Melamed. “Coral Springs is a bedroom community. We have empty stores that aren’t full. You want to spur development in Coral Springs? You don’t tie up traffic. We don’t need to double our traffic.”

City Manager Erdal Donmez said each of the quadrants will be built to be self-contained so people won’t need to cross the street. For big events such as concerts or festivals, police would assist with traffic control, Donmez said.

Grant said the city’s population could grow by as much as 5,000, with college graduates who want an “urban” environment and with empty nesters.

The city is known for attracting young families who flock to the city for its reputable schools. But once they raise their children in their single-family homes, they often sell their homes and move away, officials said. Rental apartments in a new downtown could attract those older adults who want to downsize, but still stay in Coral Springs.

Coral Springs has “hardly anything” to accommodate those kinds of residents, Donmez said.”I feel confident we can absorb the new development. We have a great name brand.”

Some details need to be ironed out:

• Specific retail and restaurant tenants haven’t been finalized yet. The city is still negotiating with an art museum to move on site, with a charter school to move out of the area to make way for businesses, and with a Publix supermarket to either re-open or work with a developer to build something else.

• Initial plans to buy the nearby post office were scrapped, but city officials said they hope to convince the postal service to reconfigure its lobby location so people could enter from the “downtown.”

• The city was hoping to use the post office space for an amphitheater. Because negotiations to buy the post office failed, plans for an amphitheater are being re-examined and could be built elsewhere in the corridor, although on a smaller scale.

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• Decorative features are still to be decided. Before the economy tanked in 2008, the developer considered installing fountains that would shoot Las Vegas-style water jets at each of the four corners. Now, smaller fountains or other features are being considered, Donmez said.

• The city’s strict sign code will stay but other restrictions could be eased, such as the 10-story height limit, Donmez said.

lhuriash@tribpub.com or 954-572-2008

Four corners in Coral Springs

The Coral Springs downtown project includes:

Southwest corner

The heart of the project will be a new city hall and parking garage. The corner would include the hotel, a movie theater with six or seven screens, and an ArtWalk — an area of public art sculptures.

The city is also in talks with the Coral Springs Museum of Art to relocate to the southwest corner from Coral Springs Drive.

The developer is in talks to redevelop an office building known as One Financial Plaza. The aging, 10-story complex which is abutting University Drive would ultimately be razed and built with mixed-use projects – residential on top of retail space.

Southeast corner

The city is negotiating to use the land for mixed-use development. That spot now has offices, the county library branch, and the Coral Springs Charter School.

Northwest corner

This area would become retail and residential, possibly townhouses, and possibly a new building for Broward College. It’s now home to the current city hall and a strip mall that houses the college.

Northeast corner

Among the options: a new supermarket, rental apartments and retail space. Details are expected by the end of the year about what private owners of the land are willing to do.

 

Copyright © 2014, Sun Sentinel

Article source: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/parkland/fl-springs-downtown-development-20141022-story.html?track=rss

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