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Dec. 06--DELRAY BEACH -- A hotel with a "tropical" design, shopping strip on the ground floor and a rooftop bar/garden may sprout up in place of a parking lot in downtown Delray Beach's arts district.

The Grove Beach Hotel, also known as The Ray Delray Beach, got a hesitant nod from the city commission Tuesday night. The proposal drew complaints about fire department access to a back alley, and noise from the rooftop bar.

The project must be approved one last time by the city's site plan board in late December -- and changed slightly if the developers want to avoid the city commission axing the project later.

Menin Development -- a Delray Beach company that owns PGA Plaza shopping center in Palm Beach Gardens, and the buildings that house Capital One Cafe and Urban Outfitters along Atlantic Avenue -- pitched the uniquely designed hotel, which falls outside Delray Beach's allowed architectural styles.

"We believe this is the appropriate place to experiment with a new style. It's in an arts district," said Tim Stillings, Delray's director of planning.

The 143-room, five-story hotel will have vegetation growing vertically on metal panels along walls, and gardens on the first floor and rooftop, giving it a "tropical modern" atmosphere, architect Jose Gonzalez said. The design is intended to maximize sustainability and decrease the hotel's carbon footprint.

The project includes stores and restaurants on the ground level, and underground parking.

Only one resident, Nancy Chanin, who lives in an apartment complex across the street from the proposed hotel, raised concerns Tuesday about potential music and noise from the rooftop bar, which the city's site plan board is tasked with reviewing.

"It's not that I'm opposed," Chanin said. "I have questions."

The chief concern of some city commissioners -- and city staff who recommended denying elements of the project -- was a narrow alley just west of the proposed hotel. The city requires alleys to be at least 20 feet.

The fire department had concerns about fitting trucks and equipment in the alley in case of fire.

The city commission approved the project on the condition that Menin work with the fire department to create a wider alley. If Menin does not, Mayor Cary Glickstein warned, the city commission will appeal the entire project.

Overall, the project drew support from a handful of folks in the Pineapple Grove Arts District.

Bob Curry, an architect who championed the redesign of the arts district when it was once under-developed and blighted, lauded the Grove Beach Hotel project.

"We're very enthusiastic about this," Curry said. "We think it'll be the best hotel in Delray."

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