Last month, a large developer went before the planning and zoning board with a project that would require several rules changes. Based on past discussions of projects this significant, the applicant could have expected hostility.
Perhaps it’s the applicant—Menin Development. The company is one of Delray Beach’s biggest commercial property owners. Menin is about to open its hotel, The Ray, in Pineapple Grove, and the Delray Beach Market, its 150,000-square-foot mix of artisanal food and drink just south of Atlantic Avenue and east of the Florida East Coast Railway tracks.
Perhaps it’s Menin’s representative, President Jordana Jarjura. She’s a land-use lawyer who served on the planning and zoning board and the city commission. Her presentation—detailed, thorough and rapid-fire—reminded me of how in 2014 she skewered then-City Manager Louie Chapman during her first commission meeting for scheduling an item against the wishes of the mayor and a commissioner who would be out of town and opposed it.
And perhaps it’s the project itself. The Linton—its name for now—would transform three parcels on West Linton Boulevard between Lavers and Southwest Fourth avenues. Menin wants to keep the two buildings on Linton for commercial use but convert the parcel behind them—the biggest, at roughly six acres—from commercial to residential. The Linton would add nearly 300 apartments on the back side and turn the roughly nine-acre site into a mixed-use community.
Jarjura told the commission that the “biggest challenge” in Delray Beach is “new housing.” Only 15 percent of Delray Beach residents, Jarjura said, work within the city. The lack of housing makes it harder to recruit companies.
Menin wants the city to create an overlay zone for three parcels that would reset the city’s plan for the site. The company also wants an increase in density to accommodate the new residential and a small increase in building height.
The sentiment continued at the commission. Mayor Shelly Petrolia—who had been a commission ally of Jarjura before turning against her—called The Linton “refreshing.” She called it a “beautiful addition” to the city and praised Jarjura.
The Linton is on the agenda for next Tuesday’s meeting, when it could receive second and final approval. If that happens, Jarjura told me, construction could start by the end of the year and would take about 14 months.
Jarjura said Menin is negotiating leases—through the pandemic and its effects on retail—for what will be the remaining commercial space. Orchard Hardware and Guitar City were two tenants. Each has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Other tenants are evaluating the market.
Elsewhere, Jarjura said, Menin hopes to open Delray Beach Market in March and The Ray in “late June or early July.” Fortunately for Menin, the company was still planning these projects when the pandemic hit. The hope is that vaccine availability will boost the retail and travel industries.
But like the new owners of the Boca Raton Resort & Club, Menin already had decided to use design features that the public likely will want in a post-pandemic world: touchless payments, 15-20-foot sidewalks and lots of outdoor space to capitalize on South Florida’s climate. Menin began designing The Linton’s tree canopy before the pandemic.
Jarjura said the changes Menin wants actually align with the city’s comprehensive plan. She recalls meetings at which planning and zoning board members discussed the sort of approach that Menin wants for The Linton.
Jarjura said “boutique hotels” appeal to the company. Mostly, though, Menin wants to increase housing. Jarjura said Atlantic Avenue needs to be “more of a 24/7 street” based around people who live there, not just those who come for nightlife. Despite the pandemic, Jarjura belives that Class A office space is a reasonable option. “We’re resilient,” she said, and people are finding that working more from home also means working a lot more.