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11/21/03 - Sun Sentinel
Housing Communities Near Atlantic Avenue Draw Good Reviews from
By Michelle Brown
"Location, location, location."
Those were reasons James Ziese, 60, made the move to the new $17.5 million Atlantic
Grove development on West Atlantic Avenue.
Ziese, who used to live in a rental apartment on the south end of Delray Beach,
was looking for a new home about two years ago when he saw the signs for the new
complex of houses and commercial space. Instantly taken, Ziese walked into the sales
office to become an owner of one of the 55 new villas, and for the past two months
he has been close to downtown shops and restaurants, within walking distance of
what he calls "the action."
"Delray has something going on just about every week, and now I can walk to
it. I'm physically across the street from the tennis center, where a lot of events
take place. Not that I'm into tennis, but it's nice to have it close within walking
distance," he said.
"I like being close to downtown, close to the ocean ... I don't want to have
to drive everywhere. I want to be able to walk to everything while I'm still physically
Walking isn't the only exercise Ziese is getting.
"It took me a while to get used to the three stories in the villa," he
said. "There are 17 steps in between the stories."
Deborah Delva, 40, has had to make the same adjustment. But the stairs are the only
complaint the single mother has about her new home. Unlike Ziese, Delva was not
instantly sold on living so close to busy Atlantic Avenue and downtown, but the
other new construction properties that interested her were out of her price range.
Delva learned through a friend at the Delray Beach Community Development Corp. about
10 Atlantic Grove units being made available at a lower price for reduced-income
buyers. The CDC is a non-profit agency and one of three partners who built Atlantic
"At first, I thought `no.' I didn't want to live that close to Atlantic Avenue.
Then I saw signs and I had seen the some of the other new places on Federal Highway.
I thought they were cute," Delva said. "I've been in Delray most of my
life, and that side of Atlantic Avenue didn't appeal to me."
But she heard about plans for redeveloping West Atlantic Avenue. And with the help
of a government grant, she was able to put a down payment on one of the affordable
units priced at $134,000 and move out of her mother's Delray Shores home, where
she was living temporarily to save money.
The other 45 units at Atlantic Grove have an average price of $200,000. All 55 units
have new owners, much to the delight of Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency
Executive Director Diane Colonna and the two other project partners, New Urban Communities
and the Center for Technology Enterprise and Development, know as the TED Center.
To help attract moderate-income families to the development, the CRA offered up
to $20,000 in second-mortgage subsidies to those who qualified. Colonna said she
is pleased with the end result, which brings additional residents and revenue to
downtown. Although the project garnered some criticism for not having more units
available for working-class families, Colonna said the experience was a learning
phase and that going forward, the CRA plans to have a more specific cost structure
in place for developers and mortgage applicants.
"We are definitely interested in doing more mixed-used, mixed-income developments,"
Colonna said. "This style of living is what many people desire. They want to
be close to goods and services, close to where the action is. This is the trend,
and we plan to keep moving in this direction."
Atlantic Grove is already going into another phase of 14 additional townhomes and
more commercial property, Colonna said. A piece of property that Mount Olive Baptist
Church owns is under contract to be purchased directly by Atlantic Grove developers.
The homes' higher price tags ultimately may benefit the city since 50 percent of
the profits that come from the two nonprofit developers can be reinvested in the
community, Colonna said.
More than new homeowners are taking notice of Delray Beach's success with Atlantic
Grove. On Sept, 23, the Florida Housing Coalition in Miami invited Colonna to do
a presentation on affordable housing, and she was recently asked by the Florida
Redevelopment Association to make the same presentation at its annual conference
"People are coming from all over Florida -- Leesburg, Daytona and Lakeland
-- to find out what we've done," Colonna said.