Royal Palm Beach saw the beginning of several major projects in 2016 that should be finished in 2017, including the long-awaited amphitheater at Royal Palm Beach Commons Park.
“There’s so much going on right now, and the goal is to just keep everything going,” Village Manager Ray Liggins told the Town-Crier on Tuesday. “We’re going to have another election. We’re going to have another cycle of strategic planning. We’ve got many capital projects out there right now. The main thing is building that stage for Commons Park. It’s under construction, along with the two additional bathrooms. I think that’s going to make that a much more usable park for events.”
The planned completion date is this summer, although not in time for the Fourth of July celebration, but in time for the Fall Festival.
A new pedestrian bridge across the M-1 Canal at Sparrow Drive is under construction to improve access for students at Cypress Trails Elementary School and Crestwood Middle School.
There is also work continuing on the easements along Crestwood Blvd. at Saratoga.
“That has been out there for quite a while and will be done by mid-year,” Liggins said.
Construction of homes on the former wastewater treatment plant site at the village’s north end should also begin in 2017.
“Obviously, seeing the old sewer plant come out of the ground with homes from Lennar, I think that’s something to look forward to this next year,” Liggins said.
Possibly the biggest change for 2017 is a project south of Southern Blvd. and west of Lowe’s Home Improvement in the former Acme Ranches neighborhood. The first phase will bring 392 multifamily units on almost 30 acres and 131 single-family units on almost 60 acres in the same area. Construction of a bridge across the C-51 Canal from Southern Blvd. is underway.
“As far as development approvals at the council level, what’s going on in there will be the majority of what’s in front of the council,” Liggins said.
There has also been discussion over a vacant piece of property behind the Village Royale shopping plaza at the northwest corner of Okeechobee and Royal Palm Beach boulevards.
“Whether we see activity in the next year will be interesting,” he said. “Jess Santamaria owns the property, and it’s approved for the same kind of thing that he’s got with the Royal Inn, where he’s got office, hotel and retail. He built out the front section of it, but it’s all one project… There’s another 14 acres back there that he has had marketed, and people have been coming in and talking about it.”
Also in store for 2017 is the long-planned renovation of the Royal Palm Beach Cultural Center.
“The Cultural Center is a significant project as far as the way it will add square footage and update the building,” Liggins said.
Improvements include removal of the raised area in the main meeting room. “It will seat a lot more,” he said. “I think it will be the largest rental space out here for events, close to 300 seats, and it will have a separate area that will seat up to 150. That’s a significant project at about $3 million.”
The project will also add more parking laid out in a way that is more accessible to the facility.
The coming year will include routine road resurfacing, which the town has largely kept up with despite the ups and downs of the economy.
Also in store for 2017 will be how to use the village’s portion of the new 1-cent county sales surtax.
“We will use the estimates provided to us by the county and create a five-year budget for that,” Liggins said. “That’s something for people to pay attention to, and good for the community, how that money is put to the infrastructure.”
Liggins said the sales surtax money will be available for road resurfacing if that is how the council decides to use its share of the proceeds.
“The sales tax will fund the resurfacing program, there’s no question about that, and we’ve never invested that much in resurfacing, only because our roads haven’t been that old,” he said. “Resurfacing goes for anywhere between 18 and 25 years, and some of our roads aren’t that old.”
Liggins noted that Village Engineer Chris Marsh has done an assessment of the roads to set up a resurfacing schedule.
Approval of a senior assessment study will be before the council on Jan. 19 to award a contract.
“The council did ask me to go back and take a more in-depth look at the traffic [needs for seniors], so I am in the process of doing that,” Liggins said. “The only thing we can expect over the next year is to complete the report and present it to the council.”
A traffic calming study for all roads in the village will also be presented to the council at its next meeting, which grew out of residents’ complaints of speeders in residential neighborhoods.
“Depending on the direction we get from the council, we’ll finalize a policy, and from that point we’ll have a policy in place,” Liggins said. “Then it will be kind of the initiative of the neighborhoods whether they want to proceed down the road of having their roads traffic-calmed or not. We’ll do that in accordance with the policy, and funded accordingly.”
Liggins said the financing will be a council decision, but that once the policy is in place, it will give the neighborhoods a process on how to get traffic-calming measures in place.
“The policy will be out there available for them,” he said, adding that traffic calming draws mixed opinions, with people opposed to it as well as supporting it. “It really takes a neighborhood to want to do it. I don’t know what the neighborhoods will do once the policy is established.”
Also fast on the horizon is a municipal election set for Tuesday, March 14. Two council seats are up for election: Seat 2 held by Councilman David Swift and Seat 4 held by Councilwoman Jan Rodusky. The qualifying period gets underway at the end of January.