Thursday, April 18, 2024

A Mandarin Oriental for Boca, iPic submits a new plan and other news of note

Boca’s own Mandarin Oriental

Will Boca Raton be a fan of Mandarin Oriental?

We will start to learn tonight. The planning and zoning board holds its hearing on Phases 2 and 3 of Via Mizner (above), proposed for Federal Highway just north of Camino Real. Phase 2 would be a 164-room Mandarin Oriental hotel. Phase 3 would be a 104-unit condo connected to the hotel. Phase 1 is the 366-unit rental complex under construction on the northeast corner of Federal and Camino.

The hotel would be the second Mandarin Oriental in Florida—there’s one in Miami—and just the seventh in the United States. The others are in New York City, Las Vegas, Boston, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. The hotel and condo would be 11 stories tall, each with a rooftop pool. The apartment building also will be 11 stories.

Looking east across Federal Highway, the hotel would be on the right and the condo on the left, with a common entrance. There also would be a combined 40,000-plus square feet of restaurant and retail space, most of it to serve guests and owners. The apartment building will have some public office and retail space.

I didn’t hear back from the developer, Penn-Florida, but the condos probably would have hotel privileges; the two buildings would be connected. They would back up to the golf course of the Boca Raton Resort & Club, with which the hotel might compete.

The developer is asking for some code deviations related to driveways, but the key aspect of Via Mizner is that the city council—acting as the community redevelopment agency—approved Phase 1 under the Interim Design Guidelines. They allow 40 extra feet of height in exchange for adherence to the downtown architecture guidelines. The project is at the southern end of the downtown boundary. Without that extra height, the buildings couldn’t be 11 stories.

When the council first approved Phase 1 in January 2012, then-CRA Chairman Constance Scott praised the architectural plan. The architect is not the one who designed the Mark at Cityscape, which the council also approved under the guidelines and which the current council doesn’t find attractive.

To my very untrained eye, the in-progress Phase 1 Via Mizner building seems much more variegated than the Mark, meaning that there are many different features, to avoid making the structure look plain and institutional. The drawings for Phases 2 and 3 look similarly attractive. The hotel and condos also would displace some of the most unattractive office buildings in the city.

In addition to putting Boca Raton on the very short list of Mandarin Oriental cities, the project would continue development of new downtown neighborhood. Across Federal Highway are Publix and Trader Joe’s. Five blocks north is the new Camden rental project. Another is nearing completion north of Trader Joe’s.

When the council approved Phase 1, the issue was not controversial. Even Anthony Majhess, the most anti-development member of the council, voted yes. When Phases 2 and 3 reach the council, there may be more questions about the design, given the buyer’s regret over the Mark. Mayor Susan Haynie said she also would want the Community Appearance Board to “scrutinize” the site plan when the developer applied for permits.

There also may be questions about changes to the project. A June 2013 memo to the council from City Manager Leif Ahnell referenced a 118-room hotel and 84 condo units.

Approval from the planning and zoning board could get the project to the council by the end of the year, but there is only one meeting in December.

Camino Real bridge

Phases 2 and 3 of Mizner Park could mean more traffic for the Camino Real Bridge. The bridge also has figured in discussions about traffic at the intersection of Palmetto Park Road and Northeast Fifth Avenue. On Monday, the city held a workshop about the intersection.

Palm Beach County owns the low, narrow bridge, and intends to widen it and move the control center. That will require closing the bridge, which will add to traffic problems. A staffer in the county engineer’s office told me that the work probably would begin in early 2017. There is no estimate yet for how long the bridge will be closed.

Hillstone and Boca are talking again

I had been hearing that negotiations were back on between Boca Raton and Hillstone Restaurant Group about putting a Houston’s on the Wildflower property. Mayor Susan Haynie confirmed Wednesday that the two sides at least are talking again.

Last month, Hillstone surprised the city by ending talks to bring the restaurant to the city-owned site. Haynie said company representatives and city staff members are going back over the main issues—the lease payments and a possible dock—“to see where the differences are.” Since a fair deal would benefit the city and Hillstone, you hope that they move quickly from talking to negotiating.

iPic’s new plan

In August, the Delray Beach Commission approved Fourth and Fifth Delray, which would include an iPic theater and the company’s headquarters. But the commission asked for a new site plan that would make the project smaller.

Last month, iPic submitted that new plan. It calls for a combined 31 fewer seats in the eight theaters. It also reduces the retail space by roughly 500 square feet and increases the office space by 1,220 square feet. Ninety spaces in the parking garage would be available for public use. The changes allow the new plan to meet a key commission demand by widening to 24 feet the east-west alley on the north side of the project that businesses on Atlantic Avenue use to receive deliveries.

But all the issues remain far from resolved. Two weeks ago, city planner Scott Pape wrote to iPic’s lawyer. In the letter, Pape said that while the new plan was “adequate to start the review process,” the staff had “identified several deficiencies, a number of which will require revision of the plans.”

The most important of the 21 items is the first. “Based on the direction of the city commission,” Pape wrote, “the scale of the project has not been significantly reduced.” Pape also said iPic needs to provide 98 public parking spaces, not 90.

In addition to mass, the commission’s other issue was traffic. Could the project work without causing backups? Pape also finds the plan lacking in this area. The company’s traffic study “needs to be revised to better describe the impact on the traffic movements on the adjacent roads and intersection of S.E. 4th Avenue and Atlantic Avenue and suggest improvements that can be made as part of the proposed development.” Pape wants the traffic analysis revised “to address the current development proposal. The exiting peak traffic distribution numbers don’t appear to add up to the total peak hour number.”

The letter also states that one year after obtaining a certificate of occupancy, iPic would have to conduct a study “to determine the degree of conflicts” posed by the dropping off of movie patrons on Southeast Fifth Avenue, along the east side of the project.

In an interview Wednesday, Pape said he gave the company until Friday to reply.

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Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.

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