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Traffic trash talk backed off new Camino Square plans

Camino Square would bring condos and retail to the old Winn Dixie plaza at the foot of Camino Real. It was called the last rundown area downtown.  But after neighbors detailed traffic gridlock, the city postponed a vote on the plan until April 8.

Camino Gardens, Boca Islands and other neighbors filled city council chambers and two conferences rooms to watch the proceedings Monday.  At issue was approving a plan to turn the vacant shopping plaza at 171 W. Camino Real into 350 condos in two, eight-story buildings. Retail would come later.

But after hearing out neighbors for four hours, council sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency took an unusual recess at 5:20 p.m. When they returned at 6:33 p.m., they announced an agreement with the developer to wait. 

“There are too many things we’re not comfortable with,” CRA chair Andrea O’Rourke said. “After listing to all the testimony, is this project in true compliance with our vision and listening to residents.”  They’ll look into whether county money can be used to improve Camino Real and Dixie Highway and other issues before they vote.

Two speakers among at least a dozen liked the plan to improve a blighted area. “We don’t even feel safe walking there,” said Patrick Grogan.

Representatives of the landlord argued the plan complies with city codes and has been three years in the making.

But others said schools and houses of worship generate and back up traffic on cross streets. That produces gridlock and residents can’t even get out of their neighborhood.  “It takes 15 or 20 minutes to get three blocks…We cannot have this congestion,” said Roslyn Goldstein.

“Why haven’t the owners improved this property to keep up with the times?” O’Rourke asked.

The owner didn’t replace retail tenants once Winn-Dixie closed because the fate of the plaza was up in the air, said Peter Flint, speaking for owner Kimco Realty.   

By Marci Shatzman

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