Sunday, November 22, 2015

Prospect Place in West Palm Beach and why the future land uses along south Dixie Hwy will likely change in the near future

The article by Alexandra Clough in The Palm Beach Post is a must read. The article also appears today (11/22) in the print edition, 'D' section (Business). What you'll read below will surprise a lot of people, especially any of those who live along, or in the vicinity of the stretch of south Dixie Hwy in question who don't know how the area is zoned. Please spare me the slings and arrows (I live in Lake Worth so I'm immune). This isn't political; what I am examining is the zoning.

The reporter writes about a 15-story, mixed-use residential condominium and retail project. The site is the 9.4 acres on the west side of Dixie Hwy., south of Belvedere and has been home to a re-used office complex known as Prospect Place. It's one of the few larger properties along south Dixie Hwy. and it currently has a zoning designation of Office Commercial (OC). In its former life it was a Sears department store, then a Winn-Dixie grocery store and, finally, what it has been since I have lived here: an office building complex. Its notable for its sea of parking.

This project would break the mold of the low-rise, retail development along this stretch of Dixie Hwy. and is considerably south of the downtown area where high rises have become commonplace. A look at the zoning and the land use of the area make it seem that the rules are already in place for this sort of project. There is no height limit in the OC zoning district. This is from

Time to play the role of geeky urban planner. The article confirms that the restrictions on height are due to the proximity to Palm Beach International Airport and not due to zoning or future land use regulations. Here is a map which shows how the property is zoned OC (lighter red) and is surrounded by General Commercial (GC) which is the predominant zoning along Dixie Hwy.
The medium color red (or dark pink if you prefer) is a zoning district called Neighborhood Commercial (NC). What is interesting is what the Future Land Use map has to say about this area. It's part of local government's Comprehensive Plan and is more of a broader brush than the Zoning Map. The zoning designations implement the Future Land Use designations identified in the Comprehensive Plan.
See the shaded area along the property's eastern edge along Dixie Hwy? That is a Commercial East designation. If you go back to reading the OC zoning regulations that opens up the possibility for mixed-use projects, including residential components and allows for a higher FARor "floor area ratio." That ratio controls the size of the structure in relation to the size of the lot. This does not apply to residential density which can be up to 14 units to an acre.

The same is true further south along Dixie Hwy. There is no height limit per sethe only limit is 30 feet, but it can be higher each foot a structure is set back from a residential zoning district. The CE Future Land Use designation ends a little north of Forest Hill Boulevard. Here is the area which talks about height limits in GC zoning.
Let's look at West Palm Beach's zoning map to its southern border just to the north of Lake Worth. This is the area along Dixie Hwy:
The area in white (at the bottom of the image above) is the City of Lake Worth corporate limits (which is the C-51 canal). The large light green area on the left half of the map is West Palm's municipal golf course and Mary Brandon Park. The medium red color is the NC zoning that runs along the shallow lots on the east side of Dixie Hwy. The large red area is zoned GC. It's made up of Palm Coast Plaza (Winn Dixie) and the commercial property just north of it. This is an area that has the possibility of big redevelopment plans in the near future. So, do not rule out a large multi-story redevelopment project for the current Palm Coast Plaza site. There is nothing in the zoning that prohibits it. 

And that, folks, will have a tremendous impact on north Dixie Hwy. in Lake Worth which in many ways still looks like the Great Recession never ended.