Sunday, October 17, 2021

BRIC To Bring Vision To Council, Alina Starts Phase Two & More

When Crocker Partners pitched an ambitious, exciting proposition for Boca Raton six years ago, the city council blew it. With the company having rebranded and city politics having changed, what will happen this time?

On today’s agenda for the council’s workshop meeting is a presentation by CP Group, previously Crocker Partners. Marketing Director Giana Pacinelli said last week that the company is “really excited to share our plans” for the Boca Raton Innovation Campus, or BRIC.

In 2018, CP Group bought the 123-acre, 1.7-million square foot complex that in the 1980s was home to IBM’s personal computer division and roughly 10,000 employees. IBM had Hungarian architect Marcel Breuer—of the famed Bauhaus School—design the complex, which opened in the late 1960s as the company’s North American research center. To many in Boca Raton, it’s public art, not just office buildings.

After acquiring the property, CP Group began its first phase of improvements. When complete, the $100 million project will add a food court, a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Medicine) center and what Pacinelli calls “an amenity corridor.” Pacinelli said the project also will include “a lot of deferred maintenance.”

It’s all designed to market BRIC to as wide an audience as possible. Roughly 6,000 people work there now. Which brings us to the item on today’s agenda and recent history.

Beginning in 2015,  Crocker Partners pitched a redevelopment plan for the Midtown area east of Town Center Mall. Crocker had reacquired several properties—notably Boca Center—and wanted to create a new neighborhood. All four major landowners were involved and would have paid for the street improvements to make it happen. Because Midtown is an employment hub, Tri-Rail was prepared to build a second station in Boca Raton on land that Crocker would donate.

But some neighbors opposed the plan, which would have added housing for the first time. The BocaWatch website ginned up resistance and fed conspiracy theories. In January 2018, the council rejected the idea. CP Group has sold those properties.

Now, as then, CP Group will present no specific plans with drawings at today’s meeting. The company wants to gauge council reaction to that “vision” and likely will hope that the members direct staff to begin meeting with CP representatives.

Only Mayor Scott Singer and Councilwoman Andrea O’Rourke remain from that 2018 vote. Both opposed the Midtown proposal. It remains one of the city’s most significant missed opportunities. 

This time, CP hopes to align its ambition with Boca Raton’s  ambition to attract more tech entrepreneurs. Pacinelli said the company’s goal is to make BRIC “the technology and life sciences center of the Southeast United States.”

I’ll have more after the meeting.

Alina Phase Two

alina
ALINA phase two rendering

El-Ad National Properties has filed its application for Phase Two of the Alina Residences in downtown Boca Raton.

The project, on Southeast Mizner Boulevard facing Royal Palm Place, is replacing the Mizner on the Green rental complex with luxury condos. Phase one included 121 apartments on the north side of the property. Phase Two will add 182 apartments in two, nine-story towers.

When El-Ad secured approval for the project, the company asked to build Alina in two phases. Company officials said they weren’t certain of the demand. At least one council member objected to the phasing, but the majority went along.

Obviously, the market has been favorable. In July, El-Ad got a $52.8 million construction loan for Phase Two. The new towers will reflect pandemic-influenced changes in the market.

Phase Two first called for 244 condos. The number shrank because these units will be bigger. Buyers are looking for more space so they can work from home and be able to move around more if they have to isolate.

An El-Ad representative said the company plans groundbreaking for early next year. The estimated completion date is late summer/early fall of 2024.

Renovation of Boca Country Club on agenda      

boca country club
Boca Country Club, photo courtesy of the City of Boca Raton

On Oct. 1, Boca Raton got access to the former private Boca Country Club, now the public Boca Raton Golf and Racquet Club. On Wednesday night’s city council agenda is approval of two expenses for renovation of the facility.

One is $1.2 million to replace the roof of the main buildings and all out buildings, such as the golf cart barn. Another is $388,000 to renovate the 18th and closing hole and for landscaping that will offer a better view from the clubhouse. Currently, you can see past the hole into the neighboring Pheasant Walk community.

Assistant City Manager Chrissy Gibson said Boca Raton will make “quick fixes” to prepare for the opening of the golf course next month. The city, she said, had to replace lights and ceiling tiles throughout the buildings. Longer-term changes will come as Boca Raton officials evaluate the multi-purpose building and align it with the city’s priorities and plans.

Delray considers business district expansion       

delray

At their workshop meeting today, Delray Beach city commissioners will discuss a plan that would expand the downtown business district.

The expansion would include the area between Southeast Fifth and Sixth avenues from Fourth Street to 10th Street. It would create a fifth sub-district of the central business district called South Pairs. The others are the downtown core along East Atlantic Avenue, the beach, West Atlantic Avenue and the Railroad Corridor near the FEC tracks.

Creating the designation, the staff report says, would be designed to encourage development that would improve the area “while providing compatible transitions between the commercial corridor and the adjoining residential neighborhoods.” One goal, the report says, would be three-story live/work townhouses.

The commission set this process in motion three years ago. Planners have held community meetings. In 2020, the planning and zoning board unanimously recommended approval but recommended that the commission “consider further restricting certain uses such as adult gaming centers, astrologists, and temporary car lots.”

FAU brain institute receives donation

The Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute at Florida Atlantic University has received a $1 million donation from West Palm Beach-based Palm Health Foundation.

According to a news release, the foundation believes that the work of the institute will align with its own Brain Health Initiative. The institute, which will be at FAU’s campus in Jupiter, is scheduled to open next spring. Palm Health Foundation was created in the mid-1990s with proceeds from the sale of JFK Medical Center to Columbia/HCA.

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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