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DELRAY BEACH — Delray Beach is planning to add more office space downtown — a move that officials and restaurant owners believe could help invigorate daytime sales on Atlantic Avenue. Right now, “The Avenue” thrives at night, but languishes by comparison during lunch hours.
Construction is being finalized on the $300 million Atlantic Crossing development by Veterans Park and the Intracoastal Waterway. The 9-acre project will offer 83,000 square feet of office space, which in turn will bring hundreds of workers to downtown.
The city also has two other projects in the works that would add over 14,000 square feet of office and retail space by Atlantic Avenue just west of Swinton Avenue
The theory is with more people working daily in the downtown area, restaurants and shops will see an uptick in business.
“We love offices,” said Todd Herbst, owner of Big Time Restaurant Group, which includes City Oyster and Elisabetta’s in Delray Beach.
“In any market that we’re in where there’s more office space or some government offices, our lunches are significantly better, so the more office space in Delray Beach, the better off everyone is.”
Merrill Lynch has already leased the entire third floor of the Atlantic Crossing building, which is set to open later this year. Atlantic Crossing is still seeking tenants for the remaining office space, a spokeswoman for the development said. Atlantic Crossing will also offer 261 apartments and 76,000 square feet of shops and restaurants.
“Adding employees and offices and workers that are here during the day is extremely important for our daytime traffic and for retail,” said Laura Simon, Executive Director of the Downtown Development Authority. “They’re here, they’re working, they’re going to lunch, they’re shopping during that time too, so it just adds that constant versus relying on our visitors here.
“If you have something that’s a constant office that’s in use with 20-50 employees and adding several of those throughout the downtown, [you have employees who could] go to happy hour after work or go to events down here and really utilizing the space.”
Adding more office space has been considered a necessity for the downtown area. Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce CEO Stephanie Immelman said in March that adding office space is “sorely needed” in the downtown corridor.
“Yes, we’re very busy at night, but it’s a little ‘Mayberry’ during the day,” Immelman said, referring to the quiet town on the “Andy Griffith Show.”
Creating office space has been somewhat of a challenge due to much of the area already being built out and the city’s height restrictions for buildings, which can be no taller than five stories.
City Commissioner Ryan Boylston said adding more businesses could only help the area, noting that “many of the restaurants are not open for lunch because we don’t have the workforce in our downtown to support a Monday-Friday lunch business.”
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That problem is somewhat mitigated during the winter, when snowbirds and visitors travel to South Florida.
Herbst said his Delray Beach restaurants stay open during lunch, but do so with a much smaller staff. He says lunch hours during season are “not as painful,” since their are more tourists. That’s not the case during the rest of the year, though.
“Summer lunches Monday through Friday, they’re no fun,” Herbst said with a laugh.
“We want to be there for our customers, so we do stay open and every one of our guests who walk up to our door and pull on it, they know [we’re not going to be closed] because it’s a little quiet, so we stay open and take the punches.”