Developer Hudson Holdings is scheduled to present revised plans to the city’s Historic Preservation Board for the restoration or reconstruction of eight historic homes in the heart of Delray Beach. The effort, if approved, would become part of Midtown Delray Beach, formerly known as Swinton Commons.
The decaying homes, which are owned by the developer, could ultimately be demolished if the plans aren’t approved, said Steven Michael, co-founder of Hudson Holdings.
“It would be, I think, a dereliction of their responsibility as historic board members to not want to embrace a preservation project that is this important,” he said.
The 7-acre project known as Midtown Delray Beach includes plans for a 120-room hotel, apartments, restaurants, office and retail space.
Five of the restored homes will be prominently displayed along Swinton Avenue south of Atlantic Avenue and used for retail.
The developer initially previewed plans last year to relocate all the historic homes beside the Sundy House, the oldest home in Delray Beach and the residence of the city’s first mayor, John Sundy.
Mustard said another two homes at the south end of the property will also stay in relatively the same area, and the eighth home — which must be completely reconstructed — will move south of the Sundy House.
“It’s almost like you are restoring the fabric of the historic neighborhood by doing this,” said Rick Gonzalez, president of REG architects, vice chairman of Florida Historical Commission.
One catch – the historic homes will have to be moved temporarily to accommodate construction of an underground parking lot with room for about 400 spaces, said Gonzalez, who helped with the project’s master plans.
“As an expert in preservation, this is commonly done,” he added.
Some critics remain hesitant about moving the homes though.
Hudson Holdings estimates that the project would create 400 permanent jobs, generate $6.4 million in sales tax revenues and act as a catalyst for redevelopment west of Swinton Avenue.
Commissioner Jim Chard is hopeful the development would be a boon for communities west of Swinton Avenue.
“I think they are definitely going in the right direction,” he said. “I think there are going to be lots of jobs, and good jobs that are going to arise from this, and since it is west of Atlantic, I think it will benefit [west Atlantic neighborhoods].”
The plans drew criticism from the Historic Preservation Board, and some in the community saying they would like to see the homes stay in place.
Board chairman John Miller said, “I want to see this area redeveloped. I would love to see you find a way to keep these structures in place and celebrate where they are.”
Hudson Holdings is back with revised plans. The new plans place five of the homes on Swinton Avenue — three in almost exactly the same spot, according to Jeff Mustard, a spokesperson for Hudson Holdings. None of the homes is moving more than 200 feet on the same block, Michael said.