Boca Hospital Nears Agreement, Midtown Restaurant Row Announced and Other Updates

boca regional
Boca Raton Regional Hospital. Photo by Aaron Bristol

Boca Raton Regional Hospital announced Monday that it has reached an agreement with new partner Baptist Health of South Florida on a letter of intent to define the relationship between them.

Jerry Fedele

According to a news release, the letter will serve as an “agreement to agree.” It signals that Boca Regional and Baptist are making progress toward a “definitive agreement.” The two parties expect to complete that document early next year and finalize it “by summer.”

If that schedule sticks, Boca Regional then would choose a new leader. CEO Jerry Fedele agreed to stay for another year after his planned retirement last August, so he could oversee selection of what Boca Regional still calls a “strategic partnership.”

Fedele has said Boca Regional would hold meetings for staff members and the community to explain details of the agreement. There is no schedule yet, a hospital spokesman said Monday. But he added that Boca Regional will “have those meeting as the process progresses.”

Midtown Restaurant Row

While Crocker Partners fights with Boca Raton over rules for wider Midtown redevelopment, the company is proposing a zippy “Restaurant Row” at one of its properties near Town Center Mall.

The 22,500-square foot project would be at the intersection of Butts Road and Town Center Road, sharing space with the Plaza office building. It would include four, 5,000-square-foot full-service eateries—Italian, American gastropub, sushi and Modern Mexican—and a smaller coffee shop or dessert bar.

When I spoke with Managing Partner Angelo Bianco more than three years ago, he wanted to turn the nearby Boca Center—also a Crocker property—into a “foodies’ paradise.” Crocker since has sued Boca Raton over its failure to adopt redevelopment rules that included the addition of residential units.

Crocker Senior Vice President Brett Reese, however, told me that the company “envisioned all along” something like the new restaurant project at the proposed location. It has nothing to do with the court fight.

“There’s a clear lack of amenities,” Reese said, for those who work at the Plaza and the “surrounding tenants. We seek this as a one-of-a-kind concentration.”

The Plaza generally faces southwest, toward the intersection. The restaurants will face northeast, toward the building, with indoor and outdoor seating. So the new building will have to present nicely in all directions.

Crocker plans to widen the entrances from Butts and Town Center. A news release speaks of new plantings, tropical landscaping and “waterways and pathways to the restaurants,” which would open onto the plaza. An access drive would ensure that deliveries and trash pickup are handled “discretely.”

Crocker asked for a preliminary hearing before the Community Appearance Board two weeks ago. Developers often make such requests before plans are final. Reese said the company intends to “overdesign” to make the project appealing and will go back to the board “in a few weeks.”

Crocker bought back the roughly nine-acre site, which the company had developed three decades ago, in 2014 for $36.3 million. That deal was part of the $350 million investment Crocker made in Midtown and which included repurchase of Boca Center. The black office tower is 11 stories tall, and Reese said Crocker plans “major internal renovations” for the Plaza.

The company wants a technical deviation that would allow it to offer fewer parking spaces than the city might requires of a stand-alone project. That’s because diners would be able to use the existing parking garage, which mostly empties out at night.

Restaurant broker Prakas & Co. is marketing the project. Reese would not comment on possible tenants except to say, “We are farther along with some than others.” Crocker wants to open Restaurant Row for next winter’s season. Reese said, “We are sprinting.”

But still mired in a lawsuit

The restaurant project sounds exciting. It’s also frustrating to think that the city, Crocker and the other landowners could be working on plans for a zippy Midtown-wide makeover. Instead, the city will be in court against Crocker on Wednesday for a hearing. Another Midtown landowner also has sued.

Camino Square

Camino Square

On Monday, the Boca Raton Community Redevelopment Agency was supposed to decide on Camino Square. It’s the 350-unit apartment complex—with retail later—proposed for the vacant shopping center on the southwest edge of downtown.

The city postponed the hearing to January, however, because of problems with the public notice of the meeting. According to Mayor Scott Singer and a city spokeswoman, there was a mistake in the calculations of how much developable space would remain if Camino Square were built. The new notice will have correct numbers.

Under Ordinance 4035, which governs downtown development, the limit for building is eight million square feet of “office-equivalent” space. The city uses that standard because office generates the most traffic.

With each development application, the city must advise how much space would be left in that section of downtown. In theory, a property owner could sue if he or she applied for a project based on a space calculation that turned out to be wrong. That’s why the city needs to properly advertise the hearing.

“It was a technicality,” Singer said, “but it went to the heart of the issue.” The CRA will hold the Camino Square hearing in January.

Elad project decision postponed

Alina rendering

Another item on the Boca Raton CRA’s agenda Monday the request by Elad Properties to build its Monarch condominium in two phases. Previously known as Mizner 200 and Alina, the 384-unit Monarch would replace Mizner on the Green across from Royal Palm Place.

After two hours, the CRA postponed a decision until January, over Elad’s objection. Councilman Andy Thomson dissented. Elad, which secured approval for the project nearly a year and a half ago, applied for the phasing 10 months ago.

The dispute seems to center on how the development approval requirements would apply to the second phase and what would happen if Elad didn’t build it. There were competing claims of blame, and I will try to sort things out before the issue comes back next month.

Delray downtown transportation

At this afternoon’s meeting, the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency could move ahead on a downtown transportation system.

One item would allocate $120,000 to extend service of the downtown trolley. The CRA abruptly ended the trolley last fall. After criticism, board members brought it back on a temporary basis from November through January. There was general expectation that there would be another three-month extension during the search for an alternative.

Thus the second item. It’s approval of a request for bids on a replacement fixed-point service, like the trolley. The proposal calls for vehicles that can seat between 16 and 22 people, are environmentally friendly and have bike racks. The CRA has allocated $500,000 to subsidize the first year of operation, but the proposal allows bidders to propose a fare and to have advertising.

Under the schedule in the staff memo, the CRA would choose a bidder who could begin in May, after the extension of the trolley ends. Based on recent experiences in Delray Beach and Boca Raton, such synching by that date could be a long shot.

Parking garage info system

And in another Delray Beach transportation item, the city commission on Tuesday night is asked to award a contract for a parking information system at the Old School Square garage. It would notify drivers of how many spaces are available and on which floor. The system would be similar to those at airport parking garages.

Barbieri chairs school board

Frank Barbieri is the new chairman of the Palm Beach County School Board. Barbieri’s district includes Boca Raton and West Boca.

As chairman, Barbieri has more control over the board’s agenda than his colleagues. The title also may help him lobby the Florida Board of Education for approval of what would be a permanent elementary school next to Don Estridge Middle in Boca Raton. At this point, the district is planning a temporary campus—with portables—during construction of the new Addison Mizner and Verde elementary schools.

Robert Huckshorn

Florida Atlantic University last week lost something of a founding father.

Robert Huckshorn was an original faculty member when FAU opened in 1964, teaching political science. He described the Boca Raton site as looking like “Fort Apache —sandy, windswept and sun-baked.”

Though he hadn’t intended to stay long, Huckshorn hung around for 38 years. His most prominent accomplishment was opening the Jupiter campus, which is home to the Wilkes Honor College and since has established biotech programs in conjunction with Scripps Florida and the Max Planck Florida Institute.

As the obituaries noted, however, Huckshorn’s list of accomplishments is stunning. He served as dean of the College of Social Sciences, interim dean of the College of Education and acting dean of the College of Liberal Arts on FAU’s Broward County campus. He ran the nursing program. He held three other vice presidencies. No wonder FAU called him “Mr. Fix It.”

Mr. Huckshorn was 90.