Chamber Hears Pitches From Developers Regarding K-Park

Members of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce heard presentations from three businesses interested in developing the village’s 67-acre K-Park property at a luncheon held Monday at the Wanderers Club.

K-Park, at the corner of State Road 7 and Stribling Way, was purchased by the village in 2004 and is its last remaining large piece of village-owned land available for development. Originally intended as recreational space, it has long been considered for commercial use as well. The Wellington Village Council voted in early May to put out a request for proposals seeking uses for the land.

Mike Nelson, chairman of the chamber’s Business & Economic Development Committee, said it has been considered for several different uses, including as a Palm Beach State College campus.

“The village is looking for something that will work for the Village of Wellington, and, frankly, for the business community,” Nelson said. “We’re looking for a plan that we can get behind that will do a number of things — adding to the economic viability of our community by way of giving jobs and bringing a mix that we don’t currently have to keep Wellington on top of the game.”

Chamber members heard presentations from Praxis Resources, Wellington Development Group and ReInvent America.

Chuck Mineo is principal of Praxis Resources, a company with experience in developing retail, entertainment, restaurant and hotel projects. The company currently has a $600 million redevelopment of Philadelphia’s waterfront called Penn Treaty Village. It has also built several resort-style communities and has founded several retail store chains. Mineo’s company has proposed a project called Wellington Gardens.

Mineo, who has lived in Wellington since 2005, originally came to the community to consider opening a store in the Mall at Wellington Green.

“I ended up not doing a store at the mall, but I told my wife, ‘Wow, this community is on the move.’ We really liked what we saw here,” he said. “Two years later, we moved to Wellington and we’ve been in the area ever since.”

The name “Wellington Gardens” is descriptive of what his company would do with K-Park, he said.

“Our concept is a family entertainment-oriented project,” Mineo said. “We’re talking about taking about the front 30 acres and devoting that to retail/restaurant/entertainment uses, along with about a 4-acre park area.”

He has verbal commitments from a state-of-the-art movie theater and bowling with a full bar and café all in one location, and a boutique-style hotel.

“I think most people in Wellington agree that, given our seasonal equestrian visitors, we could use another place for them to stay,” Mineo said. “We think that we could use more better-quality restaurants. We have commitments for those, as well.”

At the request of residents, Mineo said he has focused on independent restaurants, not large chains.

“We are going to try to honor what the residents tell us they want,” he said. “We’re going to go primarily with good, solid independents.”

Mineo said he has seen most of the shopping malls in the United States and had done development projects around the world, but has never seen a project that combines retail and entertainment with a botanical garden and a park.

“To me, Wellington would have something that’s really unique, and the reason that we’re able to do it is because we’re looking at this as a public-private opportunity,” he said. “We see this as Wellington’s last opportunity to better define and identify what this community is about.”

Howard Fabian of Wellington Development Group is co-owner of the Bonefish Mac’s chain of restaurants, including Wellington’s, is treasurer of the National Football League Alumni South Florida Chapter and has worked with the Miami Marlins Advisory Board.

Business partner Johnny Meier said he moved to Wellington in 1986 from Oklahoma City and has been working on a concept similar to Mineo’s since 2012, which would focus on family-style entertainment.

“The reason for that was I had nowhere to take my daughter when she had birthdays and things like that,” Meier said, pointing out that the fastest-growing age group is 8 to 18.

He said his group would propose a retail area fronting SR 7 with living space above, similar to the design at Abacoa in Jupiter.

“We also want to have a living science incubator for education to teach the techniques of lowering our carbon footprint to our children,” Meier said. “I believe it’s very key that our kids know the importance of recycling and taking care of our Earth.”

His group also wants to develop a community garden, but with plots available for residents to grow their own produce. “We would have specific space mapped out where you have a specific piece of property that you would go and grow your tomatoes and carrots and things like that,” he said.

They would also like to have a brewery onsite, as well as an IMAX movie theater.

The village also wants to put a senior living center in K-Park, and the Wellington Group proposes to trade the area behind the Hampton Inn and move the soccer fields into K-Park.

“We also want to reduce the amount of asphalt and increase green space, so we want to do a parking arrangement with the church next door,” he said. “That church parking lot sits empty six days a week, so we feel we can make better use of the space.”

The Wellington Group also proposes a golf entertainment center and a mini convention center.

Fabian said he has been in the real estate development business for more than 30 years, as well as being part owner of Bonefish Mac’s. His daughter, manager at the Wellington restaurant, had told him of a lack of places to go for entertainment when she is off work.

“My daughter is 24 years old, and our concept would encompass those type of things for her age group as well,” he said.

The group also proposes a boutique hotel, amphitheater and multi-family residential component.

Roz Gatewood is vice president of economic development and university relations for the Pugliese Company, based in Delray Beach, and ReInvent America, a real estate and economic group focusing on bringing sustainable economic growth, jobs and innovation, high-tech and knowledge-based companies into a global network of mixed-use science and technology campuses.

The company proposes Wellington Innovation Place, based on a “smart-zone” approach of sustainable planning principles comprised of mixed-use components that include industrial, warehouse, commercial distribution and residential components. It integrates training, research incubator centers and support services such as hotels, restaurants, banks, health centers and childcare facilities to create a holistic and a closed-loop development.

“We have over 40-plus years and millions of square feet of industrial mixed-use land development, office, commercial and multi-family residential,” Gatewood said. “We also have a great breadth of knowledge in real estate development of land planning, financial asset management, government approvals and even technology. We have several patents in technology.”

Projects the company has led include more than 400,000 square feet of self-storage, research and development and manufacturing in New Jersey, and a 70-acre project near SR 7 and Belvedere Road that includes a 230,000-square-foot national retailer with supporting outparcels and a Social Security Administration office, and over 100,000 square feet of self-storage, condominiums, warehouse and office space.

The company also built a 35,000-square-foot multi-tenant themed retail project in Delray Beach called the Big Apple. “It has been a real icon in the community if you love to shop bargains,” Gatewood said.

In Delray Beach, the company also took an empty Winn-Dixie store and converted it into a mixed-use development that includes 90 upscale condos, offices and retail.

“I believe it’s the only class-A office space in downtown Delray, and it is home to our corporate office,” she said.

Gatewood hopes Wellington residents will agree with the ReInvent America concept. “It’s time to train, teach and create skilled jobs that can help supply and support a family and provide the future for the children of Wellington,” she said.

ReInvent America would create a platform for economic growth, she said.

“It’s an ecosystem where synergies are fostered,” she said. “It’s adaptable to every community. Every community is different and has different needs. Some communities may have more of an urban nature and have more density. It’s also a catalyst for investment and high-tech jobs.”

The “smart zone” is an important part of the concept because it has mixed uses that create sustainable synergies that bring smart growth and innovation, which in turn attracts smart business and creates a sense of place in community, Gatewood said.