With the Riviera Beach Community Redevelopment Agency’s Executive Director, Tony Brown at the helm, Riviera Beach, a predominantly black, waterfront city, is transforming itself right before its residents’ eyes. Construction is already underway in a massive $375 million redevelopment of the city’s marina district, making it one of the largest economic development projects of any predominantly black city. According to city officials, construction at the marina is progressing very well. Several buildings have been demolished, and crews are clearing the site to make way for the underground utility and infrastructure improvements.

The redevelopment has been ten years in the making, but finally became a reality in March, when residents voted to clear the path for the long-awaited redevelopment of the city’s marina. Brown, along with city officials broke ground at the marina in April with a champagne toast on the city’s waterfront. Prior to that, development had been halted several times due to lawsuits filed by dissident residents who opposed developers building at the marina, fearing it would shut out local residents. The political wrangling lasted more than a decade, and even after the March election, the opposing group, called “Citizens Task Force,” requested an injunction to block the development of the prime waterfront marina district, hoping to overturn the people’s vote. A judge, however, ruled in favor of the city. Now that a judge and the majority have spoken in favor of redevelopment, the project, which will literally transform parts of the city, is off the ground and running, finally becoming a reality.

On a recent tour of the city, led by Brown, bulldozers and construction crews were at the marina site, paving the way for the massive transformation. “We’re now being put in a position to be the hub of the marine industry,” Brown said during the tour.

When the redevelopment is complete, it will be a large scale, public-private partnership between the city, the CRA, and Viking Developers, LLC to develop portions of the 26-acre marina district over 10 years, providing some 1,000 jobs. The first phase, to be completed by fall 2015, will include a two-story events center, on the site of the current Newcomb Hall. The center will feature a main ballroom which seats 300 people. It will also house smaller meeting rooms for community groups, a restaurant, a café and a rooftop terrace overlooking the water. This phase will also include a $4 million makeover to Bicentennial Park which will include a concert stage, a fountain for children and concessions. Improvements are being made to the infrastructure to accommodate a proposed marina village.

“A lot of progress is being made in the marina district – work crews have started clearing the site to make way for the new event center; and the multi-million dollar renovation of Bicentennial Park is starting next month,” said Riviera Beach Councilman Bruce Guyton, a leading proponent of the marina development. “I’m excited about the progress being made in our city.”

But the progress in the city has stretched beyond just the marina district. Yet another milestone was reached September 18 on the city’s “Singer Island,” with a demolition that will clear the way for a planned walkway connecting the popular Ocean Mall to a proposed parking facility. It’s another comprehensive redevelopment project led by Brown and the CRA. More than 100 Riviera Beach officials, community leaders, residents and guests gathered to celebrate the occasion and enjoyed live music and food samplings from the area’s best restaurants, including Romana’s Pizza Restaurant, Two Drunken Goats, Johnny Longboats, Soul Food Take Out & Catering and McCray’s Backyard BBQ.

“Singer Island is a popular destination in the City of Riviera Beach and we want to provide guests with a first-rate experience and convenient access to parking,” said Brown.

The improvements on Singer Island are an important component of the CRA’s redevelopment plan now underway in designated areas of the city, including the Marina District, the Broadway Corridor and Riviera Beach Heights. As the city fights an image of crime, which is actually down in the city, the goal is to improve the quality of life for residents by enhancing the cleanliness and visual appeal of the city’s neighborhoods.