Boca Regional Is Expanding, Local Election Results, and More

Boca Raton Regional Hospital. Photo by Aaron Bristol.

Boca Raton Regional Hospital is expanding to the former IBM facility.

Baptist Health South Florida, the hospital’s parent company since last year, will lease roughly 38,000 square feet at what is now called the Boca Raton Innovation Campus, or BRiC. Owner Crocker Partners will make the official announcement today.

Boca Regional CEO Lincoln Mendez said the hospital will use the space for “administrative staff.” The move will create more space on Meadows Road “for medical uses.” In a news release, Mendez said, “We are proud to continue growing to meet the medical needs of our community in Palm Beach County, even despite the setbacks brought on by the pandemic.” Baptist Health also owns Bethesda Hospital in Boynton Beach.

When Crocker bought BRiC in 2018, Managing Partner Angelo Bianco said the company wanted to create a life sciences/technology hub that would draw more startup companies. Crocker is spending $100 million to add a science, technology, engineering, arts and medicine (STEAM) lab, a performance hall, and a wellness center.

Virtual vs. in-person meetings

When Gov. DeSantis moved the state to Phase 3 reopening in late September, his order said that cities should return to in-person meetings this month.

Delray Beach will do so. Boca Raton will keep meetings virtual at least until December.

Both cities have old, cramped meeting chambers. Delray Beach has adopted by creating a sort of Plexiglas booth around the seats on the dais for the five commissioners, the city manager and the city attorney. All of them wear masks.

Community redevelopment agency meetings had remained virtual, but they also will shift next week. CRA Executive Director Renee Jadusingh said that, to accommodate the seven board members, she and other staff members will sit a table below the dais. The city is limiting attendance in the chambers and the anteroom.

Boca Raton extended virtual meetings under its home rule powers and the city’s emergency order issued in March when COVID-19 shutdowns began. The city’s resolution notes that “the Florida Constitution and Sunshine Law require that meetings must be public meetings and open to the public, but the provisions do not require the members of the public body to be physically present, nor do they prescribe the means of holding meetings.”

The city has heard from residents asking whether a virtual quorum–at least three council members–comports with the Sunshine Law’s open-meetings provision. In its resolution, the city says, “How a quorum is lawfully constituted, or where a meeting is ‘held’ are questions distinct from the Sunshine Law.”

A spokeswoman said the city has “only heard from two residents” seeking a return to in-person meetings. She adds that cases and hospitalizations are rising. “We believe that we have the power to do this.”

Boca Raton is not the only area city to delay a return to in-person meetings. Boynton Beach has extended virtual meetings through the end of the year, also citing those home rule powers.

Local election results

Though the outcome of the presidential election may be days away, it was an early night in Palm Beach County.

Unlike 2018, this election went off smoothly. Results went up promptly after the polls closed. Though there were no local surprises, the results reflected the massive nationwide turnout.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, who represents Boca Raton, West Boca and a large portion of northwest Broward County, got 184,000 votes in his victory two years ago. This time, he got almost 50,000 more, to defeat Republican James Pruden for a sixth term in District 22.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, who represents Delray Beach and areas north to West Palm Beach, was unopposed in 2018. Her Republican challenger this year was Laura Loomer, who based her campaign on being banned from social media for Islamophobic posts. Frankel got a slightly smaller percentage than in 2016, but she also received about 25,000 more votes in winning a fifth term.

Turnout especially helped State Rep. Mike Caruso. In 2018, he defeated Democrat James Bonfiglio by just 32 votes. This year, Caruso got almost 17,000 more votes and won easily with 54 percent. Caruso represents Boca Raton and coastal Delray Beach.

As expected, Democrat Tina Polsky won Florida Senate District 29, which includes Boca Raton, West Boca, parts of northwest Broward County and the towns around Lake Okeechobee. Democrat Lori Berman won in Senate District 31, which includes Delray Beach. Democrats Kelly Skidmore and Emily Slosberg won Florida House seats in West Boca.

New elementary school on the docket

covid

On tonight’s Boca Raton Planning and Zoning Board agenda is a recommendation to approve the Palm Beach County School District’s acquisition of 15 acres for a new elementary school.

The city is donating land south of Don Estridge Middle School at Spanish River Boulevard and Military Trail. Temporary buildings on the site house students from Addison Mizner Elementary during construction of their new campus on Southwest 12th Avenue south of Palmetto Park Road. Last year, Verde Elementary students used the facility while their new campus went up.

Addison Mizner and Verde will add middle-school grades. The new school–named O5C for now and set to open for the 2022-23 year–will have capacity to add sixth, seventh and eight grades. Collectively, the new campuses will do much to ease school crowding in the city.

Addison Mizner landscaping

Speaking of the new Addison Mizner, it will feature lots of landscaping. With Boca Raton planning street repairs in front of the school, the city now will buy about 40 live oaks to enhance the landscaping.

“We’re going to make that area look real nice,” a spokeswoman said. Many parents in the Boca Square neighborhood walk their children to school.