Friday, November 26, 2021

BRIC Plans Revealed, Wayne Barton Center in Crisis & More

Boca Raton will consider changes that would allow a remake of IBM’s former home in the city.

During last week’s workshop meeting, city council members directed staff to study new land-use rules for the Boca Raton Innovation Campus (BRIC) south of Yamato Road and west of Interstate 95. It is one of the best-known properties in the city. Famed architect Marcel Breuer designed it. IBM created the personal computer there when it was home to about 10,000 of the company’s employees.

Representatives of CP Group, which owns the 125-acre site, came before the council last month to pitch their concept. Council members wanted more details, so this time BRIC provided some.

The company’s ideas include 1,000 residential units and a 130-room hotel. To its 1.7 million square feet of office space, BRIC would add 76,000 square feet of commercial space, 60,000 square feet of medical offices, 50,000 square feet of retail, a 40,000-square foot grocery store and a 2,000-seat “civic center,” for corporate events.

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BRIC Rendering

Bonnie Miskel is CP Group’s attorney. She told the council that none of those changes could happen under current rules that limit BRIC to being a “single-use” property where development must serve only those within it. CP Group envisions a mixed-use campus designed to draw business tenants—some of whose employees may also want to live there—and people from outside.

CP Group hopes to create what Miskel called a “Main Street environment” on the north side of the property. The project would require mixing new buildings with the Breuer buildings. Miskel estimated that a transformed BRIC would attract many high-tech jobs and generate $31 million in fees and “donations.” Among other things, BRIC would donate a 1.5-acre site for a fire station.

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BRIC Rendering

Naturally, council members asked about traffic. The company’s consulting engineer said Yamato, Congress Avenue and Spanish River Boulevard could handle much of the increase. Congress, he said, is “under capacity,” a description that might surprise anyone who has driven that area at rush hour. He noted that within the nearby Park at Broken Sound, 2,500 dwellings have been built, are under construction or have been approved.

Mayor Scott Singer and Councilwoman Andrea O’Rourke said they would prefer more top-level–class office space at BRIC. Singer said that would be “an easier lift” than adding housing.

Miskel replied that the project includes converting “much” of the existing office space to Class A. One-third of it is not at that level. CP Group based the number of residential units on “market demand.” Demand for housing is strong across South Florida.

City planners will work with CP Group on regulations to replace those from more than 50 years ago. Council member Yvette Drucker said, “This is exciting.” Done right, Andy Thomson said, “This is a win for just about everybody.”

Wayne Barton Center needs help

Photo courtesy of the Wayne Barton Center

With the holidays approaching, the Wayne Barton Study Center in Boca Raton faces a crisis.

The center has been on a 2.3-acre site in Pearl City since 1999. Under the leadership of Barton, a former Boca Raton police officer, the center provides classes, services and counseling to the city’s at-risk youth to help graduate from high school and college. Barton opened the center after he helped reduce crime in the neighborhood. His work has drawn nationwide attention.

According to a representative for the center, Barton took out a loan on the property, which has an assessed value of $3.8 million. The sale price in 1999 was $412,500. The South Florida Business Journal reported that Barton took out the $2.5 million loan in 2019.

The representative said Barton “started to struggle making payments” as the pandemic hit. After that, Barton couldn’t rent out the center because of COVID-19 restrictions. The pandemic has lasted much longer than Barton assumed that it would.

Barton, the representative said, “thought he had more time with the legal proceedings. But it looks like the lender now has a strong case to foreclose much sooner than expected.” Unless Barton can raise $3 million by Christmas, the representative said, the lender will foreclose.

A GoFundMe page has been set up. That would be a lot of money in a short time, but it’s very hard to imagine Pearl City and Boca Raton without the center. Click here to visit the GoFundMe page.

Despite the crisis, the center will provide Thanksgiving meals as usual. One event will take place in Fort Lauderdale this Saturday. The giveaway at the center is scheduled for next Tuesday. According to a news release, between 2,500 and 3,000 meals will be available.

Latson firing upheld (again)

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Former Spanish River High school Principal William Latson, photo courtesy of SDPBC

The 4th District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach has upheld the firing of Spanish River High School’s former principal.

In an email, William Latson told a parent that he could not confirm that the Holocaust happened because some people have contrasting views. Latson claimed that he was not a Holocaust denier, but he sounded like one.

An administrative law judge, however, recommended against Latson’s firing after he already had been transferred from Spanish River. The school board went along. After a public outcry, the board reversed itself.

In its unanimous ruling, the three-member appellate panel said the judge’s ruling “mixed questions of fact and law” and were “imbued with policy considerations” that the court should leave to the school board.

Delray sculpture issue

The sculpture in question

Before the Delray Beach City Commission at today’s meeting is an item headlined “Reconsideration of dog sculpture.”

At the Oct. 19 meeting, an artist presented the sculpture to the commission with the condition that it stand in Pineapple Grove—the arts district. The proposed location seemed fine, but Commissioner Juli Casale wanted the city to check.

According to the staff memo, the check turned up a problem. No one had contacted the Zappitell Law Firm, whose office is behind the location on Northeast Second Avenue. When the city did contact David Zappitell, his “displeasure was expressed at that time and through other means of communications since.”

City staff members have proposed other locations. There will be more community outreach this time. Also, it might help to get the aggrieved party’s name right. The memo spells it “Zappetell.”

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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