All Aboard Florida’s conceptual plan for a rail-side apartment tower would rise 23 floors above Evernia Street, with 275 rentals in a moderate price range.
The project’s broad outlines, revealed in an open house for local residents Tuesday, represent a first step in the development process that remains open to public suggestions and several months away from the required government approvals.
Jose M. Gonzalez, senior vice president, corporate development, for All Aboard parent Florida East Coast Industries, said the company hopes to complete the project by the middle of 2017, about the time that the company’s high-speed rail service between Miami and West Palm Beach would begin. The project still requires Planning and Zoning Board and other approvals in West Palm Beach and Tallahassee. Construction could start by the end of the year.
The downtown rail station will be built just west of Quadrille Boulevard, with the apartment rising just west of the station.
The ground floors would be ringed with “destination retail,” such as coffee shops and restaurants. The building’s 800-car garage would be bookended by apartments for several stories, and veiled on two sides by architectural meshing, “a breathable skin,” for ventilation, he said. The garage rooftop would serve as an “amenity deck,” with a swimming pool, yoga lawn, fitness center, clubhouse and “outdoor living room area” overlooking the city.
There would be separate entries and parking areas for residents and train passengers.
The apartments would range from 600-square-foot studios to 1,100-square-foot, two-bedroom units. A typical renter for the smaller units might be a recent college graduate, looking to live affordably downtown, Gonzalez said. The larger, pricier apartments would be for more-established couples.
The concept recognizes that with the recent spate of condo construction in South Florida, many people have been priced out of downtowns, he said. The company hasn’t yet determined the range of rents, he said, but he added that many of the two dozen or so people who attended the open house Tuesday told him they liked that the units were all rentals and would not be leased at luxury prices.
The tone of the meeting was collegial, with posters set up on easels for people to view preliminary outlines of the project. Several All Aboard Florida officials were on hand to answer questions.
Under a deal city commissioners approved last month, All Aboard Florida got the right to build a bigger residential tower next to its downtown train station and would use adjacent land for a road to link the station with the city’s main shopping drag, Clematis Street.
The rail company, assembling a high-speed link between Miami and Orlando, got approval to buy additional building capacity on the West Palm residential site, where it hopes to build the 345,000-square-foot structure.
The deal required All Aboard Florida to pay for a key access road linking the train station just north of CityPlace to Clematis Street. All Aboard will pay $3.8 million to buy two parcels needed for the road, including prime real estate with frontage on Clematis Street. The money will pay for the road’s construction and the installation of sidewalks, lighting and landscaping along the one-block span.
Once construction is complete, All Aboard will give the property and the road to the city. Land that is not needed for the road’s construction will be used by the city as part of its redevelopment plans along Clematis Street. In exchange, the city agreed to give All Aboard up to $3.8 million in development incentives and tax credits.
The deal allows construction density on the site to increase by 2 1/2 times.
The city also agreed to give All Aboard up to $2.5 million in tax credits on the residential project. The credits are expected to be awarded over a three-year period.
All Aboard Florida plans 32 passenger trains a day between Miami and Orlando on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks, with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.