Congress Avenue: Delray’s Next Great Street

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By: Marisa Gottesman Associate Editor
A group of Delray Beach residents, business owners and city officials have a plan to turn the Congress Avenue Corridor into more than just an alternative route to taking the highway.
They are calling the 4-mile stretch of road Delray’s “Next Great Street,” a place that invites people of all ages to live, work and hang out. The goal is get people to stop and grab a bite to eat or pick up a cup of coffee than drive through the area.
For nine months members of the Congress Avenue Task Force have come up with ways to give the area its own panache and pizzaz that makes it as desirable of a location as Atlantic Avenue, but emulates its own personality.
“We don’t need to duplicate downtown,” Commissioner Shelly
Petrolia said. “It’s a different place. I would hate to see it become another downtown. I want to see it have its own uniqueness, its own vibe.”
An advantage the area has is its proximity to public transportation like
Tri-Rail, task force members say.
One goal is to use the transportation hub and build upon it with bicycle lanes, sidewalks and safe places for people to get through the busy thoroughfare. Another recommendation involves expanding the city’s trolley service to the corridor to help transport people around town.
Several members presented immediate and long-term goals they want to see take place in order to help spark a renaissance of development along the corridor.
Ideas include updating building and zoning rules to attract developers, creating a faster permitting process for interested businesses that want to come to the area, offering grants and incentives to businesses and providing more housing opportunities for folks of different ages and incomes.
“It has been an area I want to see us focus on,” Commissioner Mitch Katz said.
Commissioner Al Jacquet agreed that the area needs attention.
“When you leave Boynton and you enter Delray, Congress is dead,” Jacquet said. “We can set the bar.”
Parts of Congress have already become mini-hubs of activity. Saltwater Brewery at 1701 W. Atlantic Ave. is a popular place for local craft beer aficionados right near the corridor.
Major areas ripe for redevelopment are the former Office Depot site, which sits on 42 acres and the 28-acre Palm Beach County South Administrative Center, 345 S. Congress Ave. The center houses offices for county services including the property appraiser and supervisor of elections.
Mayor Cary Glickstein called those two locations “linchpins” of the overall transformation of Congress Avenue.
But with the economy in a booming cycle and low credit rates, he said this is the time to make something happen on the corridor.
The task force’s 13 recommendations will come before commissioners at a future meeting for formal adoption at an upcoming meeting.
Editor’s note: Editor in Chief Jeff Perlman is the chairman of the Congress Avenue Task Force.