It’s been the worst-kept secret in West Palm Beach since the March 13 election.
Mayor Jeri Muoio is looking to make another push to create the controversial Okeechobee Business District (OBD), which is basically a way to allow the Related Cos. to get approval to build the proposed 25-story One Flagler tower on the waterfront.
It’s also been no secret that the mayor was not happy after September’s City Commission vote to create the OBD went 3-2 against her and Kenneth Himmel, president and CEO of Related.
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Himmel, the developer of CityPlace and more, has done a lot of good for downtown West Palm Beach. To that end, he and Muoio share a vision of a European-influenced downtown that attracts financial heavyweights to the shores of the Intracoastal Waterway.
The problem is that a lot of downtown residents don’t necessarily agree with this vision, especially when the city looks to make a decision that appears to benefit a single person or company. And not to mention if there is no legit reason for making an already horrible traffic situation even worse.
The Post Editorial Board took issue with this, and the way the process appeared to be manipulated before the City Commission’s closely-watched September decision narrowly voting it down.
“It looks beautiful in the drawings. The proposed One Flagler in West Palm Beach — designed by renowned architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, of New York’s Freedom Tower — is less an office tower than a work of art: tiered, slender, luminous, yet restrained.
The tower’s developers, The Related Cos., admirably intend to preserve the handsome and historic First Church of Christ, Scientist, and to memorialize the long-neglected African-American architect Julian Abele.
But they want to put their 25-story building on a waterfront site zoned for five stories. To accomplish this, the West Palm Beach City Commission is being asked on Monday to carve out a glaring exception to the city’s Downtown Master Plan by creating an “Okeechobee Business District” that will allow 25-story buildings to benefit, basically, this one property.
However attractive this tower may be, the contortions being done to the city’s zoning rules are ugly. So are the political strong-arm tactics employed to dampen opposition, such as the abrupt removal of a veteran member of a key planning board who had asked pointed questions about One Flagler… “
But the March election changed the make-up of the commission. There are two new members, one of whom replaces a former no vote — Shanon Materio.
With Tuesday evening’s Planning Board meeting on the OBD scheduled, I thought it a good idea to re-publish last September’s editorial and ask about a potential future vote.
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