By Paula Detwiller
Special to the Delray Beach Tribune
DELRAY BEACH – The void that has been at the heart of Pineapple Grove Arts District for the past few years is finally being filled. Construction crews are busy erecting a 4-story Hyatt Place hotel at the corner of NE 2nd Avenue and NE 1st Street. Not only will the project bridge the physical gap between buildings, but it will also bring tourists, visitors and at least 45 new jobs to the downtown.
The new hotel will offer 134 hotel rooms at an average rate of $150 per night, and about 2,000 square feet of conference rooms and small meeting space. A large patio area, including an outdoor swimming pool and hot tub, will be built on the rooftop of the hotel’s 2-story parking garage, creating an outdoor entertainment space with a 180-degree vista facing the west. Many local merchants expect the hotel to have a positive impact on the area.
“This does two things for downtown,” said Gene Fisher, president of the Pineapple Grove Arts District board. “It creates continuity, with hotels at various price points from the beach to the middle of downtown. And it will feed foot traffic onto Pineapple Grove Way and Atlantic Avenue. It’s a tremendous thing.”
The Hyatt Place hotel is the first project to receive funding under the Development Infrastructure Assistance (DIA) program, available through the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency. The CRA will reimburse the developer—Kolter Commercial, LLC of West Palm Beach—up to 50 percent of the cost of eligible infrastructure improvements, up to $431,000. The incentive will be paid in annual installments over a 10-year period, ultimately offsetting the cost of storm drains, water mains, sidewalks, and other site improvements.
“It will be a great help, and I think it will be instrumental in getting more development going on in Delray, without question,” said Scott Webb, president of Kolter Commercial.
Webb, who calls Delray Beach a “destination city,” said he has not seen this type of incentive in other cities where the company has built hotels.
“A lot of municipalities pay lip service to developers. They offer tax credits or reductions in fees, but no assistance for the hard costs of construction. This grant program shows that the Delray Beach CRA really understands the needs of development. They were phenomenal to work with,” Webb said.
CRA Marketing and Grants Manager Elizabeth Burrows said the CRA’s roll-out of the DIA program and five other new economic development incentives last year was strategically timed.
“By having these programs already in place, Delray Beach is positioned to attract development during the early stages of the economic recovery,” Burrows said. “We’re starting to see some of the benefits now.”
The CRA is working to bring two additional hotels to the downtown area: an affordably priced 4-story hotel on West Atlantic Avenue, near Interstate 95; and a small boutique-hotel that is part of the proposed redevelopment of the Old Library Site, in the first block of SE 4th Avenue.
The Hyatt Place hotel promises to bring more exposure to the CRA-supported Arts Garage located directly across SE 1st Street, and to other Pineapple Grove merchants. Patty Deitch, co-owner of The Beached Boat furniture and home décor store located two blocks north of the hotel site, is eagerly awaiting the hotel’s opening. Construction is scheduled to be complete in September 2012.
“Many of us are located just far enough off of Atlantic Avenue for people not to know what’s down here,” Deitch said. “I think the hotel will bring more people north on Pineapple Grove Way—both tourists and residents.”
Giuliano Zaratin, owner of Dolce Amore Café at 241 NE 2nd Avenue, is also excited about the new hotel. “We’ve been here for seven years. This is going to be a major thing for us. No more gap between NE 1st and 2nd Streets. People will find us more easily, and they’ll see how nice Pineapple Grove is,” Zaratin said.
Karen Pagano, owner of Glimpse Eyewear, whose front door is directly opposite the entrance to the Hyatt Place hotel, couldn’t agree more.
“Tourists are going to need sunglasses!” she said with a smile. “To me, this represents the completion of the neighborhood. There’s a good vibe here and a lot more people are going to discover it.”
Paula Detwiller writes professionally for the CRA and other clients. Her website/blog can be found at www.pdwrites.com.