()

A $375 million public-private redevelopment project in Riviera Beach got a jump start after about a decade of planning.

Crews are on the ground updating the physical infrastructure and laying the groundwork for hundreds of millions in real estate investment at a 26-acre redevelopment site at the city’s marina. They’re completing a boardwalk, installing retaining walls, bulk heads, new sewer lines, electric wires and raising the site’s elevation by four feet.

“It’s pretty extensive,” said Tony Brown, executive director of Riviera Beach’s Community Redevelopment Agency. “The big picture is an extended cash base—$4 million in a combination of property taxes and ground lease rents from the marina, and when it’s all said and done, more than 2,000 jobs.”

City officials and private developer Viking Developers LLC broke ground Thursday, officially launching the massive redevelopment project planners hope will spill over into the Broadway corridor, attracting residential builders, commercial developers and hoteliers to the marina district.

“The key is that this all has to happen in sequence. I could not convince a hotel operator to come and build here today since there’s nothing for them yet,” said Mike Clark, president of Viking Developers LLC. “But once we put some restaurants, shops, some private charters, you’ll basically build on the earlier successes with later successes.”

Work is already underway for the first phase—an $18 million project that focuses on transforming the marina to a top recreation spot—over the next 12 to 14 months.

Construction of a boardwalk wrapped last week, and the nearby Bicentennial Park is set to get a $4 million makeover with a stage, covered bandstand, concession stand and walkway connecting it to the marina.

Popular local watering hole Tiki Waterfront Sea Grill will also be twice as big by the end of the project. Instead of 8,000 square feet, the restaurant will occupy about 16,000 square feet in a waterfront two-story building next to a revamped community center adjacent to the park. And the city’s public event center will be three times as large with a full-service restaurant, café, rooftop terrace and new rooms for meetings and banquets. The Weitz Company LLC is the contractor.

“This project will truly transform the city’s marina,” said Councilmember Judy Davis, board chair of the Riviera Beach Community Redevelopment Agency. “This will be an economic game-changer for the city and its residents. The success of the marina district and the ongoing improvements along the Broadway corridor are literally changing the face of this city. We will attract visitors in higher numbers than ever before, and that will spark the kind of economic development that will allow this great city to reach its potential.”

Viking Developers LLC, the boat builders behind Viking Yachts, has been mulling the project for the last 10 years. Early drafts surfaced in 2005 and again in 2008, but political bumps and hurdles during the economic downturn stifled the proposed redevelopment.

“We have pursued this development with great perseverance and determination. The Riviera Beach community is passionate about the public’s access to the marina,” said Bob Healey, Viking chairman and CEO. “When we’re finished, we’ll have a dynamic waterfront for city residents that will attract visitors from around Florida and beyond. We are proud to create something that will be a legacy for future generations and will be a job generator for local residents.”

In March, voters approved the $375 million project. About $39 million of that amount would come from the city’s community redevelopment agency for infrastructure upgrades, and Viking will invest the rest.

The developer will also recruit up to five restaurants for part of the project’s second phase—restaurant row, a stretch of waterfront eateries set for completion within the next four years.

“There’s no magic bullet. There’s no secret formula. This is based on making initial investments that will allow us to reap the benefits and make future investment,” Clark said. “For us the intention is to make this a regional destination. Those decisions are not going to be made via a calendar. They’re going to be made by the realities that we find in the market.”