Harbourside: Right Size, Right Fit for Jupiter

Jupiter’s Harbourside development is not out of place. Hand-wringing over the project’s size is.

On the northwest corner of Indiantown Road and U.S. 1 — both heavily traveled roads — Harbourside is precisely where intense development should be. Harbourside will enhance public access to the adjacent Intracoastal Waterway. The project, which is well underway and scheduled to open next summer, is far better situated than the proposed Lakewood residential development in the opposite direction on Indiantown Road near Florida’s Turnpike.

Harbourside includes restaurants, a marina, hotel rooms, an amphitheater, shops and parking decks. A critic told The Post’s Bill DiPaolo that Harbourside is “way out of scale for Jupiter. It looks like it belongs in Miami or Fort Lauderdale.” Ugly sprawl to our south is a mistake to avoid replicating. But statistics in Mr. DiPaolo’s story comparing Harbourside to other developments and structures in Palm Beach County show that it actually fits in pretty well.

With 360,000 square feet of commercial space, Harbourside is most directly comparable to the 340,000 square feet at Downtown at the Gardens, which is well to the west and south on Alternate A1A, near PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens. Harbourside is nowhere near the massive size of The Gardens mall, which has 1.4 million square feet of commercial space.

The similar scale to Downtown at the Gardens is appropriate. Rather than size, the pertinent question is whether Harbourside will avoid the economic angst and churn that affected Downtown at the Gardens in its early years. That project opened just before the real estate bubble burst. As the slump morphed into the Great Recession, Downtown at the Gardens changed hands several times, and multiple businesses at the shopping center failed. By 2009, The Post ran an article with the headline: “Can this mall be saved? Pricey rescue under way at Downtown at the Gardens.”

In fact, Downtown at the Gardens has been revived, though with a Cobb movie theater complex and a Whole Foods grocery store it has a somewhat different mix than Harbourside. The recession also had an effect on Harbourside, but it has been to delay the project. All things considered, that is a more desirable fate than getting sucker-punched just after opening.

We don’t know — no one does — if Harbourside will be the big hit commercially that it needs to be. But it is not too big for Jupiter. It’s in a good place, and it’s a good size.

Read more editorials like this one at mypalmbeachpost.com.