Margate solicits bids for downtown-style development with new city hall

City would provide up to 51 acres under a long-term lease

Margate Seeks Bids to Build a Downtown with a New City Hall
Margate Mayor Tommy Ruzzano with an aerial of the development site (City of Margate)

Margate is soliciting offers to build a municipal mixed-use development that would include a new city hall and serve as the city’s “downtown” area.

The development, called Margate City Center, would unfold on 51.4 acres on the east and west sides of U.S. 441 between Royal Palm Boulevard and Atlantic Boulevard. The developer would lease the largely vacant land, which was acquired and assembled by the city of Margate and the Margate Community Redevelopment Agency.

“We’re talking to developers now, and we are going to call for bids in August,” said Ken Krasnow, vice chairman of institutional investor services for the Florida region of Colliers, which is working with the city to find a developer for the mixed-use project.

For example, Colliers arranged for Margate Mayor Tommy Ruzzano and City Manager Cale Curtis to meet with several national developers and discuss plans for Margate City Center at the annual convention of the International Council of Shopping Centers in Las Vegas, which ended Monday.

“It was primarily a retail convention back in the day,” Krasnow said of the annual ICSC event. “It has obviously morphed into a mixed-use institutional investor conference because of the blending of retail, residential and hospitality. All the big national and international developers are there.”

The 51.4-acre site where Margate City Center would be built has an “activity center” land use designation. The site’s maximum building height is eight stories, or 122 feet. The site is entitled to a broad mix of uses, as many 980 residential units, up to 500 hotel rooms, and as much as 309,659 square feet of industrial space, 861,331 square feet of office space, and 1.27 million square feet of retail space, according to an offering memorandum the city issued.

Civic components of mixed-use Margate City Center would include a new city hall (25,700 square feet), a community center (25,500 square feet), and a public library (15,000 square feet), according to the memorandum.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

“Some of the out-of-town [developer] groups are looking at this as an opportunity to make their mark, to plant their flag in a meaningful way in South Florida, because it’s really hard to find this much developable land,” Krasnow said.

After a call for bids in August, he said, the effort to find the right developer to build Margate City Center may lead the city to appoint a committee to evaluate competing bids to build the mixed-use development.

For a while, the right developer appeared to be New Urban Communities, based in Delray Beach. But New Urban, founded by Kevin Rickard and Tim Hernandez, wanted a larger number of residential units than the city wanted, and the company filed a lawsuit against the Margate CRA that spanned years before it was settled. The Margate City Commission, acting as the board of the Margate CRA, voted at a May 8 meeting to approve the undisclosed settlement of the litigation with New Urban.

“It’s been seven years and probably seven months that this has gone on, and the only good thing you can say about it is, the land is worth more, and the CRA has accumulated more land,” Margate Vice Mayor Arlene Schwartz said at the meeting.

“We are finally going to keep a promise to the people of Margate that there will be a reason to stop here rather than driving through to somewhere else,” she said.

“We are going to be totally free and clear of this litigation and go forward full steam ahead with our downtown,” city commissioner Antonio Osario said at the meeting

The city wants the developer of Margate City Center to lease up to 51.4 acres through a long-term ground lease agreement, instead of striking a deal to acquire the land, as New Urban Communities had planned to do. Krasnow said developers of such projects generally expect a ground-lease term of 99 years.

The offering memorandum for Margate City Center refers to comparable municipal mixed-use developments in other South Florida cities, including Boynton Beach, Coral Springs, Miramar, Oakland Park, South Miami and Sunrise.