Sunday, October 2, 2022

What Will Take Over the Sears Space at Town Center Mall?

Boca Raton has received a revised application for the former Sears store at Town Center Mall.

New York City-based Seritage Growth Properties proposes a 244,000-square-foot retail project called The Collection at Boca Town Center. The new submittal letter, which the city received last September, does not offer details beyond saying that that the 18-acre project would be an “open-air development” with 1,263 parking spaces. At that size, the project would be roughly one-third larger than the Sears store, which closed in 2018.

Previous reports said Seritage wanted to create a shopping and dining destination. That follows the trend of renovating malls from strictly retail complexes to places that also feature entertainment as a draw. 

the collection
The Collection rendering

One key difference from the first version is removal of the 170-room hotel. The letter does not explain the reason for the change, and a call to Seritage went unreturned. Seritage made other revisions based on comments from the preliminary planning review.

“From an architectural standpoint,” the letter said, “the project is conceived as a ‘village’ organized around a series of plazas and public spaces with a strong pedestrian orientation. It is intended to offer the visitor a wide range of opportunities for shopping, dining and entertaining that complement the very successful mall offerings.”

According to the letter, Seritage wants to “properly balance” the Mediterranean style so prevalent in Boca Raton and “meet the expectations of users and retailers looking for a modern and cutting-edge experience.” The result, the letter said, is “Modern Mediterranean.” The letter said the community appearance board gave “positive support” at a preliminary hearing.

Responding to other staff comments, Seritage changed the design to provide better accessibility to tenants that would be near the adjoining Chase Bank branch. In addition, Seritage changed the plan in a way that the letter says would “activate” St. Andrew’s Boulevard on the western side of the property by making it connect better to the roadway.

the collection
The Collection rendering

Despite that reference to complementing Town Center, Seritage does not want The Collection to be part of the overall mall site plan. That could be because of a lawsuit against the company by Simon Property Group, which owns the 39 acres of the mall.

Simon claims that its 1985 contract gives Simon first option to buy the Sears site if it were not going to be used for retail. Seritage responds that Simon is trying to achieve through litigation “what it could not achieve through negotiation” to buy the site. As of this week, the parties still were filing briefs.

Seritage’s principals formed the company in 2015 to “unlock the underlying real estate value” of 266 properties it acquired from Sears Holding, which also included former Kmart stores. The company bought the Town Center site in May of that year. A real estate investment trust, Seritage trades on the NASDAQ exchange.

There is no timetable for when the project might be ready for a hearing before the planning and zoning board.

Trinity property offer

trinity church

Boca Raton has made a lowball offer for the Trinity Church of God property.

The 5.2-acre property in Boca Square is listed for $5 million. On Jan. 28, the city sent a letter of intent offering $1 million. According to the property appraiser’s website, the market value is $3.4 million. The church, which will close this summer, is selling the land and the buildings.

Neighbors would like the city to buy the property for use as a park. The area is zoned residential. The church board will decide which offer to accept.

Boca Regional donation

Boca Raton Regional Hospital

Boca Raton Regional Hospital has received another large donation toward its Keeping the Promise campaign.

Jean Blechman, already one of the hospital’s most prolific donors, has given $3.5 million to name the new surgical intensive care unit. With her late husband, David, Blechman founded Twinlab in the late 1960s. The Boca Raton-based company makes nutritional supplements.

Twinlab got its name because the Blechmans had two sets of twin boys as well as another son. According to the New York Times obituary of David Blechman, all five worked for the company. As with previous donations, this one is in the name of Jean and David Blechman.

Delray Fire recognized

sober home regulation
(Photo courtesy Delray Beach Fire Rescue)

The Delray Beach Fire Rescue Department this week touted its first-ever meeting of standards by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. 

In a news release, Fire Chief Neal de Jesus said the accreditation effort “required us to look at all programs and services provided to the residents, visitors and businesses, while comparing those to best practices internationally. We have identified many areas of efficiency, as well as identifying areas for improvement, and more importantly, developing plans to correct those areas as we continue to pursue excellence.” Only 250 agencies have received this prestigious recognition.

Wildflower update

wildflower park
Wildflower park rendering (Courtesy of City of Boca Raton)

Having just opened one park, Boca Raton may be getting closer to opening another.

The site plan for the long-delayed Wildflower/Silver Palm Park went to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board on Tuesday. The plan for the roughly six-acre park must come back to the city council.

Tower 155 amendment

It’s been seven years since Boca Raton approved the downtown Tower 155 condo. Tonight, the developer goes before the planning and zoning board for yet another amendment to the development order.

Compson Associates first asked for 209 units, then lowered that to 192 and finally to 170. The developer notes that “construction is almost complete.” The company now wants to reduce the number of parking spaces from 329 to 309 and make provisions for valet parking.

The project has been controversial. The city council, acting as the community redevelopment agency, lowered from 2 acres to 1.2 acres the allowable size of downtown properties that could get additional height in return for following architectural guidelines. The Tower 155 site is 1.28 acres. The staff recommends approval of the change in parking spaces.

Jacquet’s bad run continues

Al Jacquet

It’s been quite the run for State Rep. Al Jacquet.

Four weeks ago, the Palm Beach Post reported that Jacquet – a Democrat whose district includes Delray Beach — had not maintained a district office for six months and that even friends weren’t sure where he was living.

Then the Florida Politics website reported that Jacquet had used a homophobic slur to describe his opponent in the Democratic primary. Jacquet called Lake Worth Beach City Commissioner Omari Hardy a “batty boy,” which in Jamaica is a pejorative against gay or effeminate men.

As a result, Jacquet’s party removed him from his leadership role on the House Rules Committee. Since Republicans vastly outnumber Democrats in the 120-member House, Jacquet is now basically an irrelevant member of the Legislature.

Jacquet, a former Delray Beach city commissioner, issued one of those non-apology apologies: “In the heat of the moment, I said something I should not have said. I apologize for my words that have offended some of my colleagues.” Jacquet says he will continue his campaign for a third term. The primary is Aug. 18.

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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