Wednesday, July 6, 2022

New Brightline Design Details, Election Campaign Updates, and a New Hotel for Boca?

Brightline has sent Boca Raton its proposed design of a train station and parking garage east of the Downtown Library.

The rendering, by Boca Raton-based RLC Architects, shows the garage bordering the Library Commons development north of the library. It would have 458 spaces —54 on the ground floor for library patrons, 120 on the second, third and fourth levels, and 44 on the open, top level. The garage would be no taller than 45 feet and no closer than 25 feet to Library Commons.

brightline parking
Courtesy of RLC Architects

The library entrance would be on the southwest corner, with the station entrance on the southeast corner. Only passengers would pay a fee to park. The station would be smaller than those in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, but with the same amenities, such as Wi-Fi.

Regarding the agreement that would allow the station and garage, negotiations between Virgin Trains USA (VTUSA) and the city continue. The latest version I have seen went from the company to the city seven days ago.

boca brightline rendering
Courtesy of the City of Boca Raton

In it, Virgin Trains proposes change in language related to the company potentially acquiring two pieces of city land—the remaining open space at the library and a parcel just south of the library across Fourth Street.

Originally, Virgin Trains wanted the city to give the company both parcels. Then the company asked for an exclusive option. In the Oct. 31 proposed lease, VTUSA wants right of first refusal for the land, which the city would designate for Transit Oriented Development. That means the city could entertain offers for the land but would have to give Virgin the chance to match or better it.

That language is one of the key points. The Friends of the Library oppose development beyond the station and garage. In the proposal, Virgin Trains agrees to provide security for library parking as well as train parking. “If the library parcel is sold to a private party,” however, the company would not continue that security. Whatever that reference to selling the actual library site means, it likely will scare Friends of the Library even more.

brightline garage boca
Courtesy of the City of Boca Raton

Other provisions will cover moving the Junior League’s garden—which VTUSA has agreed to do—and length of the lease. Virgin proposed an initial 29-year lease, with a company option for another 20 years and a mutual option for another 40 after that.

VTUSA wants the council to approve the agreement this month. An update is scheduled for Tuesday’s workshop meeting. The agreement also is on the agenda for Wednesday’s regular meeting, assuming there is consensus at the workshop.

Trinity Church land sale

The call has started for Boca Raton to buy the land owned by a church that will close next year.

Brian Stenberg, a neighborhood activist who lives in Boca Square, urged on social media that the city purchase the roughly five acres on Southwest 15th Avenue. Trinity Church of Good, which operates Rainbow of Love Preschool, recently announced the closing.

Nearby residents want to know what could become of the property. The owner is the non-profit Trinity Church of God, Inc. I spoke with Realtor Michael Catino, who said the board has asked him to be the listing agent. Catino said he has “a long history with the church” that includes his children attending the preschool. “I was a natural choice.”

According to the property appraiser’s website, the market value of the land is $3.4 million. Catino said he wanted to address rumors on social media that board members would see a windfall from the sale. The board, Catino said, “won’t see a penny.” The money, he said, would “go toward the mission” of the church.

Catino said the board wants to hear from as many prospective buyers as possible but also “wants to do what’s best for the community.” No sale would close until after the preschool year ends on May 31.

If no city council member brings up the subject at next week’s meeting, I would expect Stenberg or others to do so.

Election updates

Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer barely has an opponent in the election next March. But he already has raised nearly $82,000.

scott singer
Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer

In fact, Singer raised almost $30,000 alone in September, the most recent month for which reports are available. He has filed campaign finance reports since April, when he opened with $18,000 in donations.

Among Singer’s corporate contributors is iPic, which gave $3,000, and Group P6, the development firm that has had several projects before the council and hopes to have more. Group P6 has given $2,000. Singer has received $1,000 from Bonnie Miskel, the city’s leading land-use lawyer, and another $1,000 from a Chicago group that owns a vacant eight-acre parcel near Florida Atlantic University. The group wants the city to allow multi-family residential on the site.

Singer’s only announced opponent is Bernard Korn, who has loaned himself about $3,000.

Seat A Councilman Andy Thomson had raised about $37,000 through September. Like Singer, Thomson won his seat in the August 2018 special election necessitated by the suspension of former Mayor Susan Haynie. Thomson ran for the council seat that Singer left to run for mayor.

Many of Thomson’s corporate contributions align with Singer’s. He has been raising money since June. No one has filed paperwork to challenge Thomson.

In contrast, Seat B incumbent Andrea O’Rourke has filed only one campaign finance report. It shows just a $3,300 loan from O’Rourke to herself. At the moment, O’Rourke also has no opponent.

New Boca hotel?

A proposal before the Boca Raton Planning and Zoning Board at tonight’s meeting would allow construction of a 124-room hotel near the intersection of Yamato Road and Congress Ave.

Three properties on Broken Sound Boulevard and Broken Sound Parkway make up the planned unit development that the city council previously approved. The proposed changes include the hotel and new dates for building office space that is part of the project.

The staff memo recommends that the advisory board approve the changes. The project is in the Park at Broken Sound—formerly the Arvida Park of Commerce—and the investment underscores the park’s importance to Boca Raton’s economy.

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.

Related Articles

Latest Articles