No more Cheesecake? Gardens council to vote Thursday

Shopcore Properties proposes tearing down Cheesecake Factory, adding hotel, apartment building at Downtown Palm Beach Gardens.

Cheesecake Factory

Plans to remake Downtown Palm Beach Gardens, including the demolition of The Cheesecake Factory restaurant to make way for a 280-unit apartment building, go before the city council Thursday.

The proposal from Downtown’s owners, Chicago-based Shopcore Properties, also calls for demolishing the north-end building across from The Cheesecake Factory, which houses Texas de Brazil restaurant, and erecting a 174-room hotel in its place. 

The hotel will look out over a new east-west road cutting across the northern portion of the 16-year-old plaza. 

City planners recommend approval of the proposal, which secured the support of the city’s Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board on June 8. The council meeting starts at 6 p.m. Thursday at City Hall (masks required) or can be viewed online.

Since paying  $141 million to buy Downtown in 2014, Shopcore has been aggressively redefining the shopping center due west of the Gardens Mall.

The 280-unit apartment building, called Alta at the Gardens, as seen from the west. (Presentation to city by Shopcore, Cotleur & Hearing, CREATE Architecture Planning & Design and edsa)

Gone are TooJay’s Deli and Urban Outfitters, to be replaced by outdoors retail giant REI Co-op, expected to open next year. A 116,000-square-foot Life Time athletic club is rising on the northwest corner of the site along with a 425-space parking garage.

Anchors Whole Foods Market and the 16-screen CMX movie theater remain, although theater owners have indicated they plan to renovate as well. 

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Shopcore won’t say whether Cheesecake, Texas de Brazil and other tenants displaced by the project would be back once work is complete.

The Cheesecake Factory, a hotly pursued addition to any center, is an original tenant. However, such a large restaurant must produce high sales numbers and it may have been falling short in recent years, Gardens-based restaurant broker Richard Lackey told OnGardens.org in June. 

“It’s been the conversation for a couple of years that Cheesecake may not stay there,” he said. 

The departure would leave Cheesecake Factory in just two Palm Beach County locations, Rosemary Square in West Palm Beach and near the Town Center mall in Boca Raton.

Accompanying the apartment building at the Cheesecake location in Downtown’s northeast corner would be a 432-space parking garage. 

The 174-room, nine-story hotel looms over the east entry to the proposed east-west road. (Presentation to city by Shopcore, Cotleur & Hearing, CREATE Architecture Planning & Design and edsa)

Urbanizing a suburban-style downtown

The move is part of an effort to inject new life into a shopping plaza that has been plagued by its lack of street access and inability to tap into the built-in customers that come with hotels, apartment dwellers and offices. 

“The proposed ‘Full Vision’ redevelopment for Downtown Palm Beach Gardens embraces the intent of a true mixed-use development,” city staff wrote in its report. “The addition of a multifamily residential component along with the vertically integrated mixed-use hotel tower to the existing mix of commercial and office uses will greatly increase the activity on the site throughout the day and will provide new ‘eyes on the street’ at night to increase site security.”

The plans, first presented to the city council in May 2017, call for no changes in the southern portion of the project, where restaurants such as Yard House and stores such as west elm draw customers despite ongoing plaza reconstruction.

Ironically, developers are finding that the best approach to regain sustainability is to return to the street grid of old, drawing shoppers by foot and bicycle as well as by car from nearby neighborhoods, said retail expert Bob Gibbs of Gibbs Planning Group in Birmingham, Mich.

Existing view of Downtown Palm Beach Gardens from the east toward The Cheesecake Factory. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

Downtown, hemmed in by Alternate A1A, PGA Boulevard and the Gardens Mall, has to pursue other steps and it is, Gibbs said.

“The best thing is to put in offices and hotels,” Gibbs said told OnGardens.org in June. “Hotels are really great because it brings in fresh people every few days with American Express cards.”  

Additionally, every office worker supports 25 square feet of retail, he said. Shopcore is seeking to more than double its allowed office space, adding 28,000 square feet on the second-floor of the hotel structure.

But Downtown captures another critical feature of the new-look retail center. It doesn’t depend on department stores, which are dying in America, said Gibbs, author of the 2012 book “Principles of Urban Retail Planning and Development.”

Downtown has turned to smaller, more easily replaced anchors, such as west elm, REI and Life Time. REI, for example, is filling a void left by Urban Outfitters.

Downtown Gardens
Downtown Palm Beach Gardens plans presented in June to the Palm Beach Gardens Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board. (Presentation to city by Shopcore, Cotleur & Hearing, CREATE Architecture Planning & Design and edsa)

No changes for hard left turn

The developers plan to add more direct access to the parking garage from Gardens Parkway, which runs along the north end of the property, and they agreed to keep watch on the hard-to-navigate left-turn out of the center onto Gardens Parkway just west of Alternate A1A.

The staff report said the city had raised concerns about the intersection but “the applicant does not believe there will be adverse impacts.” However, Shopcore said it “understands these concerns and is agreeable to monitor this intersection and install a traffic signal if warranted and approved by Palm Beach County.”

The hotel would rise nine stories, or 124 feet, far lower than the 17-story and 15-story towers at the Landmark condos across the lake. It would have restaurants and offices in its bottom two floors.

The apartment building, called Alta at the Gardens, and adjoining garage would be eight stories or 82 feet. The garage would be added to the southeast end of the existing 880-space, four-story garage.

© 2021 Joel Engelhardt. All rights reserved.

Author: Joel Engelhardt

Joel Engelhardt is an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor based in Palm Beach Gardens. He spent more than 40 years in the newspaper business, including 28 years at The Palm Beach Post. As a reporter, he covered countywide growth, the 2000 election and the birth of Cityplace in West Palm Beach. As an editor, he oversaw probes into the opioid scourge, private prisons, police-involved shootings and more. For seven years, he worked on the paper’s editorial board. Joel left The Post in December 2020. He and his wife, Donna, have lived together in Palm Beach Gardens since 1992.

4 thoughts on “No more Cheesecake? Gardens council to vote Thursday”

  1. I agree with Lauren, too many apartments!! You would think “city counsels” would have already learned that for the most part nothing good comes from “apartment buildings” but as we all know, money talks! A hotel with shops might be a good idea but the congestion and traffic is already horrible and the road cutting through the middle is just a disaster, I’m sure the car fumes will be loved by all. I think we all agree it needs a facelift and some new ideas but this is a bit overboard.

  2. Why does the hotel as planned have to look like crap? It looks like something built in the 70s and won’t age well.

  3. I agree with Laure and Jamie . I am not against the development, but we have to be careful of what comes after apartments. buildings construction. The Traffic is going to be more congested because more people are going to come from the south due to work opportunities. What about the environmental impact that affect our daily lives. The climate change. Money is not the more important thing in our lives. I can’t imagine how Downtown is going to looks like with the hotel plus the apartments building. This city is going to become a slum city. Do we want to have a traffic like Miami or Miami Beach? . I don’t think so.

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