Groves Council Updated On Campus, Lox Commons

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council heard an update Tuesday on the status of development of the new Palm Beach State College campus on Southern Blvd., as well as the commercial property to go on about a quarter of the 94-acre site.

Town Manager Mark Kutney said he had met with the commercial developers as well as college representatives about plans for the Simon property at Southern Blvd. and B Road. Representatives from both parts of the project were on hand to give presentations.

Bob Bentz with Land Design South explained the commercial portion of the project, known as Loxahatchee Commons.

Bentz noted that he had spent the last two years walking the Simon property through the comprehensive plan amendment process, which was completed last summer. The mixed-use designation assigned the property will now have to change, he said.

The college portion will revert to rural residential, which is an acceptable state land use for an educational campus, while the remaining portion will be commercial retail, where the density would increase slightly from 91,000 square feet to 94,000 square feet.

“The reason for that is that in Loxahatchee Groves, you have a defined building coverage of 10 percent, which is a very, very low building coverage,” Bentz said.

He said the new comp plan process will start over the next few months.

Access in and out of the property would be at three different points on Southern Blvd., with right turns only both in and out. One would be for the commercial property, another shared with the college and another exclusively for the college.

Discussion has also centered on nearby Tangerine Drive, which has been envisioned as a sort of main street for the town, Bentz said.

“Tangerine is kind of a frontage road that runs parallel to Southern Blvd. and a connector that runs from this property to the east,” he said. “The proposal is to terminate it at the western edge of the commercial property as an access drive.”

There would be two access points on B Road, one for the commercial area and one for the college.

“Our main access point is Tangerine Drive, and it has been expressed to us through the process over the last several years that Tangerine is your main street,” Bentz said. “You do want to have retail shops located adjacent to it and along that site, and that is really the main focal point of our site plan.”

He estimated that about 20 different tenants would be in the site overall. Of those, at least 15 or 16 of them would be right on Tangerine. The two access roads would intersect at the center of the site, which would be the key trade point of the property. The north/south road would run through the parking area, and Tangerine Drive would have limited access to the parking.

“Tangerine is really designed to be more of a road,” he said, adding that both roads would be treated with pavers to slow down traffic and give it more of a distinctive look.

“There are a variety of open-space areas,” he said, pointing out a lake planned for the north end of the property. “This lake you see is actually quite large. That is about a six-and-a-half-acre lake on the property. That is about 30 percent of the property. It will be a significant water feature.”

Bentz said the project is designed to be a gathering place for Loxahatchee Groves residents, as well as a retail center. In between the two rows of buildings along Tangerine will be an open area for dining or just gathering. To the north will be another passive area where people can sit by the lake, which will have an equestrian trail running around it.

It is also intended as a place for students from the college to gather and dine, he said. Architectural features will attempt to preserve the Rural Vista elements espoused by the town, Bentz added.

The largest building on the site is planned to be a medium-sized grocery store of about 45,000 square feet.

B Road is proposed to be paved from Southern Blvd. to Okeechobee Blvd., with conventional paving from Collecting Canal to Southern and open graded emulsified mix (OGEM) from Collecting Canal to Okeechobee, with traffic-calming devices along the road. Bentz noted that the developers would pay for the paving.

Collene Walter with Urban Design Kilday Studios, which is doing the planning for the college, said a recent workshop between college and town officials had been very fruitful.

She said because the town’s comprehensive plan does not speak specifically to colleges, language would be written for that.

“Creating special policies is a very appropriate way to address the future development on the parcel,” Walter said. “We also discussed the treatment of the northern buffer and the proposal to have a 110-foot separation from the properties on Collecting Canal Road, and they included the 60-foot canal right of way and a minimum 50-foot buffer that would be proposed on the north side of the property.”

The buffer was created at the insistence of Councilman Tom Goltzené, who said residents on Collecting Canal Road had expressed concern about the proximity of the school.

She said they also discussed architectural design, and the college plans to have designs that are consistent with the town’s, but would not necessarily follow the town’s Rural Vista guidelines.

“What has been proposed was that the college would create its own design guidelines that would govern development of the site,” Walter said.

She said the college would also develop a master plan for the campus to submit to the town. “This is a long-term initiative for the college,” she said. “It takes over 50 years essentially to develop a college campus.”

Bernard Zyscovich with Zyscovich Architects said his company heard loudly and clearly in the previous workshop that Loxahatchee Groves is a special place.

“We’re trying to address that particular issue in both the master plan and also the design guidelines,” Zyscovich said.