Boca Raton wants more control of Boca National golf course. After a workshop meeting Tuesday, the city council made the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District an offer:
The city would design, build and pay for the 18-hole course on the west side of Northwest Second Avenue in the Boca Teeca community. The district would design, build and pay for the shorter training course on the east side of Second Avenue.
Tuesday’s meeting was the culmination of the council’s frustration with the beach and park district in general and Art Koski in particular. When discussion began four years ago of a course on the former Ocean Breeze site, Koski was the district’s executive director and attorney.
Koski alone negotiated the district’s purchase of Ocean Breeze for $24 million. Council members believe that the district overpaid, even if the council voted to underwrite bonds for the sale.
Then the cost to build the course came in at $28 million, twice what Koski had projected. And rather than ask for more underwriting, the district asked the city for $20 million outright.
As Mayor Scott Singer said Tuesday, from the council’s standpoint that final surprise was one too many. Council members were unwilling to commit so much money with the city having no say in the design. Councilman Andy Thomson took the lead in looking for cheaper, varied options, citing the popular municipal course in Winter Park as more of a model than the Price Fazio firm’s $28 million version.
Five weeks ago, the council asked staff to get names of other designers that might be interested. The city got 16 responses. Many of their representatives spoke Tuesday.
The most important comments, however, likely came from the consultants whom the city retrained. They calculated that the cost could be more like $15 million for a course that would attract current golfers who use the municipal course and be competitive with other courses in the area.
The consultants picked apart the Price Fazio design. Examples: why put the clubhouse on the east side, away from the 18-hole course that will most need the clubhouse? Why $2.6 million for a maintenance system when $1 million is the norm?
Most notably, the consultants debunked Koski’s oft-stated claim that Boca National would be a “world-class” course. “World-class” courses, one consultant said, are on “world-class” properties. This site is between Interstate 95 and the Florida East Coast Railway, amid aging condos.
Still, the consultants and the other designers said that Boca National could be well-designed and popular—just for less money. They praised Price Fazio’s plan for a training course on the east side with short holes for children learning the game and time-pressed adults. Council members also like the idea.
But the council won’t be a silent partner on Boca National. If council members now are willing to spend city money on the course, however, they want a majority stake.
The District responds
But will the beach and park district accept the city’s offer?
District commissioner Craig Ehrnst said in an email, “We all want to build a golf course at a reasonable price.” He believes that after a “learning process” for the city that could take as long as a year, council members will see the Price Fazio coast as “realistic and actually reasonable.”
One reason, Ehrnst said, is the “significant cost” of development review in Boca Raton. He disputed the consultant’s figure of $1 million for the maintenance facility.
Though council members on Tuesday stressed “collaboration” with the district, Ehrnst said, “Election year politics by second-guessing does not build trust.” Singer, Thomson and Andrea O’Rourke are scheduled to be on the March ballot.
Though Ehrnst said that “recreational golf” hasn’t been a priority in Boca Raton, “I am actually open to the city working the west side and the district developing the east side if we can agree upon the design and synergies to build together.”
Susan Vogelgesang, the board’s chairman, also said, “I would like to explore the possibility of having the city construct the west side golf with the district being responsible for the eastern segment. However, there are a lot of moving parts to this solution since there would have to be shared elements, such as the irrigation, maintenance, cart barn, clubhouse (temporary or permanent), driving range, etc.”
Board member Steven Engel said, “The ideal situation would be to do the hardest thing—have both bodies find a way to work together to build this course, so that we don’t end up with two different facilities opening at two different times on the same piece of land.”
Council members asked City Manager Leif Ahnell to lay out the offer in a letter to the district. They want to schedule a meeting with the beach and park commissioners. Ehrnst agrees on that point. “We need to work together and establish better communication.”
Vogelgesang said Wednesday, “I have reached out to several council members for a meeting but have only heard back from one of them. If they are going to start this (design) process over, it is going to take a substantial amount of time for them to study the responses and proceed through the selection of an architect and contractor.”
To appreciate how much this golf course has become an issue for the city council, the special meeting on Boca National lasted longer than the regular meeting that followed.
To appreciate how fraught the debate over the course has become, Councilman Thomson said Tuesday that the designers of the Winter Park course didn’t come to the meeting because of all the criticism they had received from people who prefer the Price Fazio design. As Thomson put it after Tuesday’s meeting, “They said, ‘Why should we put ourselves through this?’ We’re just trying to get the best deal for the taxpayers. This sort of behavior is unacceptable.”
Uptown Boca update
Uptown Boca has announced deals with seven more tenants for the mixed-use project on Glades Road near State Road 7.
The new names are Lazy Dog Restaurant, Lynora’s Osteria, Olive U Mediterranean Grill, F45 Training, Sports Clips, Paradise Grills and Tipsy Salonbar. Uptown Boca previously had deals with Lucky’s Market—the anchor tenant of the retail portion— Silverspot Cinema, Chick-fil-A, Bolay and Burger Fi.
Uptown Boca’s principals are Schmier Property Group, Rosemurgy Properties and Giles Capital Group. The 38-acre project will include 456 rental apartments. The developers will market them to people who want as many amenities as possible within walking distance and will market Uptown Boca to the wider community as a new entertainment destination.
In a news release, Schmier Property Group CEO Brian Schmier said his team soon would “announce some more key tenants that will really solidify the merchandising mix. At that point, we’ll be around 90 percent leased.”
Construction also is proceeding. The first residential building and the Lucky’s Market site have been topped off. The second residential building has been poured.
Meanwhile, work continues on the first phase of Alina Residences, the luxury condo in downtown Boca Raton.
El-Ad National Properties said work on the three-story parking garage is done. Construction now will start on the residential portion. The company just secured a $146 million construction loan. This phase will have 121 units. The second would have 262 units.
This project, on Mizner Boulevard across from Royal Palm Place, began in 2014 as four 30-story towers. It has had three names, starting out as Mizner 200.
Michael Woika promoted
Boca Raton has a new deputy city manager — and an old one. Michael Woika was promoted from assistant city manager. He joins George Brown, Ahnell’s longtime deputy.