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West Palm Beach city commissioners discuss One Flagler project

Posted at 11:16 PM, Jul 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-25 04:59:51-04

Will the West Palm Beach skyline change?

On Monday, city commissioners publicly shared their thoughts on the proposed 25-story office tower proposed for the waterfront.

Last week, we reported on the debate over the project heating up.

The push for opinion continued this week as the city remains divided on One Flagler. A full page ad was taken out in The Palm Beach Post on Monday while supporters and opponents handed out buttons and flyers at the packed commissioner's meeting.

The commission is tossing around more ideas as they decide whether to support the project and rewriting their downtown master plan to accommodate the project.

"It is moving fast and I think there's a lot more questions that need to be answered," said Sharon Mmaterio, District Five city commissioner.

Those who support the project say it will bring more jobs and preserve the historic Church of Christ Scientist building.

"Historic preservation, economic opportunity, keeping our taxes low," said Bill Nugent, a historian who lives in downtown.

"What's our rush? Let's take our time and let's ask the right questions," said Abe Bernstein, resident of Trump Plaza.

The developers, Related Group, want to turn the First Church of Christ Scientist lot into a 25-story class a office space.

Commissioners showed us stacks of emails and petitions that continue to flow into city hall. Commissioner Materio says the idea to emulate Miami's business district is great but she still has questions.

"The entire business district of Miami could eat us. I mean, talk about apples and oranges. That's cantaloupes and lemons," she said.

There's also the worry of traffic and waterfront views.

"You open the door, one domino falls. Now there are lots of pieces of property along Flagler Drive that are developed. What's going to stop them?" said Bernstein.

Mayor Jeri Muoio assures that's not the intention.

"I think people think it will be more intrusive than it will actually be," she said. "People think that we're going to build tall buildings all over the water front. And we're not."

Some commissioners brought up another alternative.

"We as the commission could landmark that building tomorrow. We could purchase the property, sell the back lot to either related or another developer for a good price," said Materio. "We own lots of property. Let's shift our direction and shift our development north and in an area that we really need it."

But Dave Hamilton, who's been a part of contract negotiations between the church and developer for over 10 years, said that's not possible.

"It would interfere with contract rights and also it would create kind of a conflict of interest if they didn't allow it, then bought it and built a big building," he said.

The discussion continues this Wednesday with another meeting over the project at 6 p.m. in the commission chambers at City Hall. Public comments will be open.

Another meeting with the Downtown Action Committee is planned for Aug. 9 at 9 a.m. at City Hall.