What Makes Me Sad: Over-Development in South Florida

Confession: I love reading the newspaper, especially The Palm Beach Post.  It may not be the world’s (or even the state’s or county’s) best newspaper, but it’s easy to scan through online while I take my lunch break at work.  The other day (Monday, July 18th, to be exact), I came across an article that made me sad.   It was written by staff writer Bill DiPaolo and titled “Michael Jordan’s Restaurant is Just the Start of Jupiter’s Development.”  And it summarized eight new development projects starting within the next few years.  EIGHT.  Right here in my beloved little town of Jupiter.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think many of the improvements are much needed, especially the work being done on State Road A1A near the Square Grouper and Guanabana’s.  Any young lady who has ever walked alone from the Square Grouper to the Love Street parking lot or Guanabana’s after dark knows that the area will benefit from new sidewalks and better lighting.  Bicycle lanes are also important because many residents, especially the migrant worker population, ride bikes to and from work, to go to the grocery store, to do laundry, etc.  Jupiter is also a popular riding destination for serious cyclist athletes.  At night, it is hard to see cyclists when they are riding along the side of the road (true story – I almost hit a man riding his bike on U.S. 1 between Burt Reynold’s Park and Jupiter Harbour late at night).  A bike lane will make the area safer for drivers and bike riders.

The new A1A near Guanabanas with bicycle lanes.
A cyclist using the new bicycle lanes on A1A.

However, there is some development we definitely don’t need here in Jupiter.  Does anyone remember the failure that was Abacoa in the early 2000’s?:  “Affordable housing” that was bought up by investors who then doubled the rent?  A downtown area that could not sustain businesses except for a couple of drinking establishments and a sports bar/grill?  Since then, Rooney’s, the Irish pub, closed.  The movie theater closed in 2006 when a newer, cleaner, and fancier cinema opened at Downtown at the Gardens, mostly because the Abacoa movie theater became a dumping ground for middle schoolers who wreaked havoc on Friday and Saturday nights.  Since the theater was demolished in 2010, the area has seen an uptick in foot traffic due to awesome events like the monthly Food Truck Invasion (YUM) and free concerts at the amphitheater.  Of course, the Independence Day fireworks at Roger Dean Stadium and spring training draw crowds.  I know Jupiter’s population has increased since 2000 but do we have enough people interested in supporting new development such as Harbourside and an outdoor market at Love Street?  I’m not so sure.

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A vehicle drives over the new pedestrian crosswalk on A1A.
Adirondack chairs lined up next to the new sidewalk outside Guanabanas.

According to Bill Di Paolo’s article, here is what we have to look forward to in the coming years:

  • A new upscale restaurant (of which Michael Jordan is part-owner) at the former Charlie’s Crab on the Loxahatchee River.  Doesn’t The Woods in Harbourside Place qualify as a fancy restaurant owned by a local sports star?  Why do we need another one?
  • A $2 million project on U.S. 1 north of the Carlin White Bridge to reduce the road from six to four lanes and widen sidewalks, add bike lanes, lower the speed limit, and beautify the area with lighting and landscaping.  This, I understand.   I’m all for a safer and pedestrian/cyclist friendly roadway.
  • Construction on the Love Street project, which has been approved for an outdoor marketplace with restaurants and shops near the Guanabanas… because we didn’t just build Harbourside Place, right?  However, as of July 20, “a majority of the [Jupiter] town council … voted to call for a building moratorium on the waterfront property that includes Suni Sands and Love Street.”  Read about the controversy regarding the moratorium here.
  • New bicycle lanes, crosswalks, sidewalks, and landscaping for Indiantown Road between U.S. 1 at Harbourside Place and east to A1A.  This makes sense so patrons of Harbourside can walk to the Shoppes of Jupiter and Jupiter Square, home of the delicious Little Moir’s Food Shack.
  • A playground at one of my favorite new Jupiter hot spots, the Lighthouse Cove mini-golf course.  Yep, I like playgrounds.  This gets the okay from me.
  • A bike-friendly and pedestrian walkway that will connect Inlet Village (Love Street, etc.) to Burt Reynolds Park.  The walkway is planned behind the former site of Henley’s Marine.  I guess I can’t complain about this one too much either.
  • Building on the former site of Suni Sands mobile home park.  The park’s original 1906 Sperry Boat House was torn down on July 14 due to hurricane damage in 2004.  According to http://www.wpbf.com and The Palm Beach Post, the property owner, Charles Modica, is working with the  Jupiter Historical Preservation Society on plans to rebuild the structure with the same 1,500-square-foot footprint and salvaging as much of the original boat house as possible (pilings, windows, and fixtures).  Mr. Modica also plans to build a hotel and shops at the site.  I’m excited about the restored/new boat house but a little nervous about the hotel and shops… what will this mean for traffic and parking, the environment, and the overall laid-back, beach vibe of the area?  And, most importantly, what does it mean for the people who live there?  Others must have this concern too, seeing as the town council called for a building moratorium.
  • In 2020, work will begin to replace the U.S. bridge over the Loxahatchee River north of Burt Reynolds Park.  The project is estimated to cost $80 million and will include new sidewalks and bicycle lanes.  That’s a lot of zeroes after the 8…

I know that there has to be new development to keep our town’s economy rolling.  Without improved roadways and new business, Jupiter may stagnate.  But I think what upsets me the most is the sale and demolishing of Suni Sands, a mobile home park across A1A from Guanabanas.  Suni Sands has been there for a LONG TIME.

Suni Sands Postcard
$2.95 prime rib au jus?  Yep, Suni Sands has been there since prices were that low!!

People have lived there for a LONG TIME.  Most of them are elderly.

Suni Sands Motel  Mobile Home Park Jupiter, FL
Suni Sands Motel Mobile Home Park Jupiter, FL

What some may consider an “eyesore” is actually someone else’s HOME.

Granted, these homes are sitting on some very valuable riverfront property.  But should we take away people’s homes for a Key West-style hotel and shopping center?

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A cheery yellow mobile home at Suni Sands.

According to a May 2, 2016 article by Mr. DiPaolo, “about a dozen of those residents are pursuing a court suit alleging the sale of the Suni Sands mobile home park to Charles Modica should be voided because the residents of the park were not given first refusal to buy the property.”

An abandoned home at Suni Sands.

I haven’t been keeping up with all of the news stories regarding the Love Street/Inlet Village development, so I would love to hear your comments, concerns, and updates regarding the situation.  Mr. DiPaolo has done a wonderful job covering the closing of Suni Sands and eviction of the residents and I recommend checking out his articles in The Palm Beach Post.

How do we balance development and preservation in Jupiter?  Email me at NativeJUP@gmail.com.


JUP Girl

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