Scripps Research Institute and the Paving of Black Jupiter | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

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Scripps Research Institute and the Paving of Black Jupiter

If history were clout, the people of Kennedy Estates would wear crowns. But history is bunk, and the black enclave's residents are mere sand in the gears to the machinery of power.

Nestled away in a small grid of streets in West Jupiter, the community is a part of the historic black neighborhood of Limestone Creek, where former slaves and their families migrated south more than 100 years ago in search of work on Palm Beach County's railways and farms. Through the years, white Jupiter's luxurious homes and gated communities sprang up around the black settlement, which remained out of sight and out of mind. Black graves lie unmarked where housewives jog past.

Now, however, as a consequence of the arrival of the Scripps Research Institute in northern Palm Beach County, a line of development dominoes threatens to collapse on Kennedy Estates, and West Jupiter's black community has the full attention of the power elite. The residents wonder if it's for good or for ill.

Here's how the dominoes fall:

The last domino is a road to a new development, a road planned to lop off a shoulder of Kennedy Estates, impinging on a park and playground that is the area's sole amenity. The residents are concerned about access to the park, the safety of their children, and the impact of the traffic on local air quality. They've asked that an alternative road be built, or that the community be compensated.

The road--or one like it--is needed by the county and the Town of Jupiter to alleviate traffic on Jupiter's main artery, Indiantown Road, which is soon to take on an additional 5,000 vehicle trips per day. The traffic increase is because the town has signed off on development of Hawkeye Jupiter, an 82-acre parcel of land whose owner, the Shapiro/Portnoy Companies, has committed to the construction of up to one million square feet of buildings--including at least 250,000 dedicated to bioscience.

The bioscience space is the pot of gold. That's because, in its desperate quest to land Scripps as an economic engine for Palm Beach County, local officials, in alliance with business interests--and at the insistence of the Dark Prince former Gov. Jeb Bush--promised Scripps there would be, in addition to truckloads of public funding and other considerations, a whopping 8 million square feet of space for biotech businesses in a cluster surrounding the Scripps campus.

In the anxious flurry of last-minute bargaining to ink the deal, Scripps chieftain Doug Bingham called the cluster "a dealbreaker" and worried that without it the institute would lose its state funding. County leaders understood that the Scripps campus, in and of itself, could never generate the number of jobs needed to justify the public investment in the facility.

With that failure hanging over their heads, the county, the Town of Jupiter, and four other municipalities in 2006 created the Bioscience Land Protection Advisory Board. Struggling ever since to conjure the cluster into being, the Hawkeye development could provide the magic number. That's a mighty big incentive to shunt aside the concerns of an isolated, impoverished minority neighborhood like Kennedy Estates.

The residents have met repeatedly with Shapiro/Pertnoy to press their case. If the road to Hawkeye must be built, they ask for a new park in return and a modest scholarship fund for local children--in the hope that they might someday participate in the bioscience bounty. By all accounts, the residents have been stonewalled.

The dispute went before the Palm Beach County Commission Sept. 11. To their credit, the commissioners declined to sign off on the Hawkeye road, directing the Kennedy Estates residents and Shapiro/Pertnoy to sit down and bargain further, with Town of Jupiter reps and County Administrator Bob Weisman to participate. The commission is to vote on the roadway again Oct. 16.

This isn't the only part of the Scripps deal that's impacted Palm Beach County's African American community. The final agreement in 2006 included a pledge by local businesses of $5 million to a non-profit dedicated to minority causes. That pledge is now more than $3 million short.

Maybe the county can do better this time.

Fire Ant is an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes fatal bite. He covers Palm Beach County. Got feeback or a tip? Contact [email protected]