Plans to build 88 residential units on the former Center for Spiritual Living site in Wilton Manors have been cancelled.
“Right now, we’re going back to the drawing board,” said Larry Baum, founder of Stellar Homes Group, the company developing the site, located at Northeast 15 Avenue and Northeast 26 Street.
Baum said his company plans to attempt some kind of business or commercial-related venture on the 4.9-acre site. Nothing has been decided yet, he said, but possible ideas include a hotel or shopping center. “We’ve had so many different offers and calls because it’s such a great site.”
Baum said it was decided that the land was too valuable for residential condos and more money could be made in some other kind of use. “The market for condos has softened up.”
He added that Stellar will go out to the community first before officially proposing anything to the city. “There’s no time frame yet. It’s still very up in the air. We’re big believers in Wilton Manors.”
The project was approved by the Broward County Planning Council in June of 2017. The city commission gave tentative approval to the project in December of 2016, but told developers they needed to reduce the number of units further if they wanted final commission approval. Before that December meeting, developers had proposed 100 units. By the end, they dropped further to 88. “I will not vote for a site plan that has the same footprint,” said Mayor Gary Resnick at the time.
When Baum was trying to build residential units, the project received support from some residents and rejection from others.
Previously, John Fiore, a former mayor and the vice president of the East Neighborhood Association, suggested 50 to 60 units. Resident Randy Comer wanted developers to only build 40 units. Those against the project said it would ruin the character of the neighborhood. Those in favor cited the tax benefits and commended the aesthetics of the project, which was designed by Miami architect Rene Gonzalez. Resident Karl Lentzer said the project would be “great for the neighborhood.”
In a new interview, Fiore stated he’d like to see Class A office space built there for doctors, attorneys and other professionals. “If something like that was built there, I don’t think we’d have a real problem with that. An office complex would be compatible with the neighborhood . . . It’s a good site for it.” Fiore said he’s less sure that a hotel would be a good fit for the site, or Wilton Manors. “It would have to be small, and it’s just not cost effective.”
Resident Laura Comer, who was against building 88 units, said she’d like to move forward. She and some other residents were also against the G Resort hotel project that was proposed for the site in 2010. “This should be interesting. I hope they come up with something decent so we can just move on from all this fighting.”