The Palm Beach Post – West Palm Beach negotiations with All Aboard Florida nearing impasse
Posted on January 25, 2016
By Kimberly Miller
Negotiations between the City of West Palm Beach and All Aboard Florida over its downtown station and other development are at a “critical juncture” with one city commissioner describing the two sides nearing impasse.
All Aboard Florida, a private express passenger rail project connecting Miami to Orlando, is building a $29 million station in West Palm Beach and has plans for future development, including residential space.
“I am still a fan of All Aboard Florida, but that doesn’t mean as a city we roll over and play dead,” said West Palm Beach City Commissioner Keith James at a Thursday meeting of the Economic Forum of Palm Beach County. “It’s not a perfect relationship by any stretch of the imagination and we have reached somewhat of an impasse on pretty key issues.”
All Aboard Florida’s station design required the closure of two downtown streets, which will be permanently shut in January. The city also agreed to abandon an alleyway, but there are still discussions about paying for a $2.6 million connector road to alleviate traffic from the closed streets, and city concessions for All Aboard Florida’s other development plans.
City spokesman Elliot Cohen said Thursday that the issues are not new, but that the heightened stalemate has put the discussions at a “critical juncture.” Cohen said the city wants to deal with the 60,000-square-foot station and other development in separate discussions.
“This is not the time to start dealing with residential,” Cohen said. “We want to untangle the issues.”
Cohen said the city is hoping to meet with All Aboard Florida next week, but nothing had been scheduled as of Thursday afternoon.
All Aboard Florida said Thursday that “We continue working with the city to make this a great development for both All Aboard Florida and West Palm Beach. We’re committed to the continued planning and cooperation on our development.”
All Aboard Florida was the topic of discussion at Thursday’s economic forum, a meeting the Coral Gables-based company had initially requested with the group.
It ultimately did not attend, citing scheduling conflicts and a change in format.
Economic Forum President Rebel Cook said All Aboard Florida withdrew from the panel discussion when it learned Tequesta Mayor Abby Brennan and Jupiter Inlet District Chairman George Gentile were also invited.
Both Brennan and Gentile have been vocal with their concerns about the addition of 32 passenger trains per day on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks.
“Initially (All Aboard Florida) asked for the program to present the project,” Cook said. “We agreed, but not on the condition that they be the only ones there.”
Former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley and Sharon Merchant moderated the panel discussion. Foley said All Aboard Florida’s absence was “regrettable.”
“If you have a public policy issue, you should be helpful in sharing information for the public you hope to serve,” Foley said. “That’s my only editorial comment.”