It was standing room only Tuesday night in the Commission Chambers as Wilton Manors commissioners voted on a land use change for the property that was formerly the home of the Center for Spiritual Living.
Developers, UDC, want to use the 4.9-acre site, located at Northeast 26 Street and Northeast 15 Street, to build condos. The current land use is commercial but developers want to change it to medium high residential.
Before the meeting, developers had proposed 100 condo units. But per a request by commissioners, who listened to residents and others during public comment, who were both for and against the project, developers said they’d be willing to reduce that to 88.
Commissioner Julie Carson suggested the number, which had been at 90 a few minutes before, but said she still wants to see other changes before she gives her final approval. The rest of the commission agreed with her. Only Commissioner Tom Green voted no.
Commissioner Scott Newton said he’s trying to respect the neighborhood and the developers.
Mayor Gary Resnick said 88 units was a step in the right direction but he would not support the development unless the size of the entire project was reduced. “I will not vote for a site plan that has the same footprint.” Developers said they would look into doing that. Resnick also said he wants to see the site redeveloped before something less appealing, such as an auto dealership or repair shop opens there – something commissioners would not be able to prevent.
The project was widely praised for how it looked, even by those who were against it, but Green said the density would have to be reduced in order to get his support. “No matter how wonderful it is . . . it’s not good enough for me. The density will determine everything else.”
Many residents against the project expressed the same sentiment.
Martin Nixon, president of the East Neighborhood Association, said the number of units was too extreme and would cause an excessive increase in traffic and noise. He added that the proposed five-story development would be higher than other existing nearby structures, including the three-story Olivewood Condominiums. He suggested an office building would be a better fit.
Green joked that he’s heard some people say they would prefer the site be used for a cemetery. Former mayor John Fiore, who spoke on behalf of the Olivewood condo president, said he’d like to see 50 to 60 units.
Those residents who support the project, including some who live nearby, say it would attract valuable new residents and put the city on the map in terms of having a world-class building.
“It makes a statement about Wilton Manors,” said Karl Lentzer, who lives across Northeast 15 Street from the project.
“For me, it brings the right kind of folks into our city,” said Flippen.
They also suggested that the increased number of residents, living close to the railroad tracks, could help attract one of the proposed Tri-Rail stations. The idea is that the more people live in a certain area the more a station in that area would be used by potential riders.