from the Sun-Sentinel, 29 April 2011
WEST BOYNTON'S BOOMING HUB
After 2 years, Canyon Town Center still expanding
By Erika Pesantes | STAFF WRITER
WEST BOYNTON — Drive west of Boynton Beach, amid nurseries and a sea of housing developments, and you'll run into Canyon.
Canyon Town Center is a commercial hub in the Agricultural Reserve, kind of a scaled-down version of Renaissance Commons, farther east in Boynton Beach or Mizner Park in Boca Raton — without the nightlife.
Canyon, at Lyons Road and Boynton Beach Boulevard, is one of two commercial developments allowed on agricultural lands that voters in 1999 approved by earmarking $100 million for that purpose.
Approaching tis second anniversary, Canyon Town Center has drawn nearby suburbanites to its shops, restaurants and service businesses, including chains such as Publix, Panera Bread, Walgreens and Bank of America. It's helped foster a sense of community with its amphitheater events, such as regular karaoke nights and the recent Bengali New Year celebration. And its two soccer fields are home to the Boynton Knights F.C. of the American Youth Soccer Organization.
About 300 kids participate in that soccer program and, without those fields, they would be forced to travel to Delray Beach or Lantana for practice and games, said coach Dan Moss. Some might not even have a chance to participate, he said.
"I'm here for everything," said Stacy Cerreta, who along with friend Beth Farmer walked out of the V & Mi Nails salon with brightly hued, pedicured toes. Both live in Canyon Springs, one of five nearby residential developments built by GL Homes, where they met. There will be an estimated 3,000 homes once two of those developments are built out, the developer said.
Canyon Town Center was built by its affiliate, GL Commercial.
Farmer, of Maryland, said her family moved west of Boynton Beach in February because of her husband's job, and Canyon Town Center "absolutely" played a role in the decision to live there, she said.
She raves about Frozen Delight, which offers kosher ice cream, and Fit 2 Be Tied, a kid's shoe store that she's visited at least three times for her three boys.
Businesses at Canyon have kept afloat in this recession. There's been no turnover at the 175,000-square-foot commercial development, and construction is still under way, said Michael Friedman, president of GL Commercial.
Patrons soon should expect two new restaurants, Alabama Joe's and Sushi Yama, as well as The Learning Experience day-care center and a kid's pottery studio.
The developer is also partnering with Delray and West Boca medical centers for the two-story 20,000-square-foot West Boynton Urgent Care & Diagnostic Imaging Center, scheduled for completion on the eastern end of Canyon Town Center in about a year.
Thirty-four rental apartments also could be built next to the amphitheater.
The goal is to make Canyon Town Center "a focal point for the western suburbs," Friedman said.
Still, some business owners want Canyon to become more of a destination for the sake of smaller businesses, said Karen and Allan Feldstein, who own After the Stork, a children's clothing boutique.
Many patrons go to Publix or other chain stores and sometimes are surprised to find mom-and-pop type shops there, they said.
"We make new friends every day," Allan Feldstein said.
Given restricted commercial development in the Ag Reserve, there is less competition for his business, Conte Salon, said Richard Conte, one of its owners, who is looking to buy a home in one of GL Homes' nearby developments.
It is possible to strike a balance between the needs of residents and those of farmers in the Agricultural Reserve, according to James Murley, assistant dean at Florida Atlantic University's College for Design & Social Inquiry. He pointed to examples in Homestead, Davie and Indiantown.
"There's nothing wrong with well-designed retail establishments that meet the needs of people who live in semi-rural areas," he said. "There's nothing to be gained by putting people in cars and asking people to drive long distances and adding to the carbon dioxide emissions and traffic."
During boom times there was more pressure for farmers to sell land to speculative buyers, he said, but that has since changed.
"There are these market conditions that are keeping things more in balance," said Murley, a former secretary of the Florida Departments of Community Affairs.
The proposed Delray Marketplace at West Atlantic Avenue and Lyons Road is the only other commercial development also permitted in the Agricultural Reserve. It could get final approval as soon as June.