New vision for Delray's Congress Avenue

Posted at 6:59 PM, Mar 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-03 18:59:35-05

Congress Avenue through Delray Beach may be getting a new look. A task force has come up with ways to revamp the road.

It includes linear parks, bike lanes and new businesses. The hope is to create a draw to the corridor.

The task force will present its recommendations to the city commission Tuesday night at 6:00.

"There's nothing here. They need to come in, refurbish this, renew this shopping center," 10-year Delray Beach resident Bud Haney explained standing at a strip mall where Congress Avenue intersects with Lake Ida Road. 

The group recommends the city help developers come to the area by fast-tracking permits and changing zoning, as needed.

Leaders have their eyes on the South County administrative complex. The tax collector, health department and other county government buildings are set up there.

It's also in the complex which houses the Tri-Rail station. Task force members envision turning the campus into a mixed-use development with restaurants, private offices, maybe apartments.

"There's nothing like that over here, like a restaurant, or a cafe, or Starbucks," explains Kevin Lustin, a Delray Beach resident who says he goes down Congress Avenue nearly every day.

Another idea is to reduce the lanes of traffic and build a protected bike lane, making it a complete street.

Task force members say they've received traffic studies which show Congress Avenue isn't at capacity.

But Haney has a hard time believing it, pointing out whenever there's a crash on I-95, many drivers use Congress as an alternative.

"We need more lanes to keep the traffic moving," he says.

Further south down Congress Avenue is the empty former Office Depot headquarters. Leaders say turning the property into something usable can be a "game changer" for redeveloping the corridor.

They've also targeted Saltwater Brewery on Atlantic Avenue as a possible anchor for more development; helping turn the corridor into a work, live, play environment.

Smaller changes include improving the aesthetics, by putting landscaping in the median and adding open space, or park, along the road.

A task force report outlines different grants which might be available to pay for some changes. It will be up to city commissioners to decide how to proceed.

According to the county crash statistics from Sept 1, 2014 to Aug 31, 2015, the intersection of Congress and Atlantic Avenues was the 10th most dangerous with 93 reported accidents. The intersection of Military Trail and Okeechobee Blvd in West Palm Beach was ranked first, with 146 accidents.