Alton & Kolter Homes – Changing Life (for good) in Southeast Florida
If there is one thing this little corner of Palm Beach County needs, it is more:
A) Strip malls (aka “Up to 500,000 square feet of Retail Space”)
B) Tacky, overpriced, housing “communities” in which every unit is identical to all the others (aka “Up to 2,000 Single- and Multi-Family Homes and up to 700 Apartment Homes”)
C) “Boutique” yoga studios, fro-yo stands, and expensive restaurants trying desperately to appeal to residents desperate to believe they live someplace trendy
D) Homeowner associations, absentee landlords, and property-management companies
E) Hotel rooms (three hundred planned)
If you’re Kolter Industries (also known, more bucolically, as Kolter Homes) or one of its shadowy avatars, the “Alton Town Center Development Company” or Brock Development Corporation (because real estate, in South Florida, is nothing if not one enormous shell game), the answer is: F) ALL OF THE ABOVE.
Our local example of greed, lack of urban planning, and thoughtless, unrestrained development is a large piece of land just east and west of the interstate freeway: the Briger Forest.
The damage that Alton/Kolter has already done to the Briger Forest–one of the last and largest pieces of unprotected (and undeveloped) forest in southeast Florida–is egregious.
Here’s what it looked like a few months ago:
And here’s what it looks like now, after bulldozers and other heavy machinery swooped in and wiped vast swaths of the forest off the face of the earth.
Protests and litigation against planned development of the so-called Florida Scripps Phase II/Briger Project have been going on for ten years. Nonetheless, and to absolutely no one’s surprise, the South Florida Water Management District (otherwise known as “a realtor’s best friend”) issued an Environmental Resource Permit for the project. The permit was in turn immediately challenged by the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition and Everglades Earth First!.
These and other groups charge that the project includes no hazardous waste management plan (this point is directed primarily at the Scripps Institute, which conducts animal and biochemical experimentation and which owns the entire 600+ acres), no provisions regarding mitigation of the impact on local water quality, and no environmental impact statement regarding the destruction of habitat for the many listed endangered species that live in the Briger (including storks and the Eastern Indigo Snake), a direct violation of the Endangered Species Act.
What I can report personally is that the area was home to a large number of gopher tortoises, another endangered species, and that no attempt was made to relocate them. One day the forest was intact; the next day it was bulldozed.
The nucleus of the plan is the creation of a Scripps-managed “Biotech City” on the site, but Alton/Kolter is already bragging about its plans for a “community,” including single-family homes, apartments, hotels, and retail businesses (“the 24/7 shopping destination for all of northern Palm Beach County”) that will sprawl across the entire piece of land:
The “Alton Homes” community will presumably look a lot like the laughably named “Abacoa Town Center” about a half-mile away:
What I can tell you from experience, however, is that many of the retail spaces in the Abacoa Town Center are empty and/or change hands every few months, that the restaurants are largely spruced-up fast food joints, and that the apartments (I’ve been in some of them) are cheap, abominable boxes. There is no town there, no center, no community.
But by God, we need another one just like it right across the street.
And with it all the jobs that will be created. They’ll be nearly exclusively minimum-wage, dead-end jobs, of course, with no health insurance or retirement, and they’ll add almost nothing to the local tax base. Of course, there’ll also be the folks who’ll have to work on expanding Donald Ross Road, which runs between Scripps and the new Alton Community. The current two lanes in each direction are never, ever going to be enough to handle the traffic, presuming this place ever fills up. (Road construction will be temporary work, of course.) And then we’ll need a lot of mostly-paid-under-the-table gardeners and landscapers, because you can’t expect white people to do work like that.
But still. I just said “jobs”; I didn’t say “good jobs.”
As for the tech positions that “Biotech City” will create, it isn’t as though South Florida produces a lot of STEM graduates (or professional graduates of any kind), so the vast majority of them will go to foreign nationals on restrictive J1 visas that keep them from protesting their low pay and enforced, unpaid overtime or from organizing to improve conditions.
And so a good time will be had by all, especially if you’re a real estate
parasite speculator developer in South Florida.
Yeah, I know: fighting the realtor lobby in this part of the U.S. is like trying to get John Boehner to quit looking like he’s trying to choke down a mouthful of used cat litter, but still. It’s worth saying what a colossally bad idea this is.
But AltonLife.com has thoughtfully provided some bitter humor for those driving by this newest scar on the land:
Because when you kill something, you most definitely change it.
- “Clearing of Rare South Florida Forest Begins for Development of “Biotech City”: http://earthfirstjournal.org/newswire/2014/11/13/clearing-of-rare-south-florida-forest-begins-for-development-of-biotech-city/
- Save the Briger Forest: https://palmbeachscripps.wordpress.com/
- Save the Briger Forest on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/savethebrigerforest
Mayor of Palm Beach Gardens:
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