The customs facility at Boca Raton Airport will open at least two months late.
The plan was that the gateway, which will save private pilots and their passengers an extra stop at Palm Beach International or Fort Lauderdale Executive, was supposed to be ready by Labor Day. But Airport Authority Executive Director Clara Bennett and Authority Board Chairman Mitch Fogel confirmed Friday that the new construction completion deadline is mid-September, with the facility to open in mid-October.
Bennett first told the board in May about potential delays. She updated board members in July. Bennett said the contractor, West Construction, has gone through “a lot of turnover in management.” That’s been the main problem. There were some rain delays, though nothing that Bennett called “unusual” for a South Florida summer.
The contract with West is for $4.3 million. West was the low qualified bidder, and Bennett and airport authority board member Gene Folden said the authority board had to choose the low bid, in part because the authority received state and federal grants that come with procurement rules. The work covers construction of the building and improvements to the taxiway and the roadway. Still, it’s not a complicated project. There seems to be no good explanation.
In addition to the authority, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and the city are monitoring the work. Bennett said the authority “cannot tell the contractor how to proceed. We only can document the progress.” Because that progress is behind schedule, the liquidated damages clause of the contract has kicked in. West is being fined $500 per day, plus engineering costs. “It’s disappointing,” Bennett said, “because there has been such excitement.”
Folden worries that, as with a commercial flight that is delayed and then delayed again, the facility may encounter more problems. “I’m not totally optimistic,” Folden told me, “that we’ll make the mid-October deadline.”
As Folden pointed out, “You worry that the fines will exceed the profit” for West, “and the contractor will walk.” The authority “has to balance” its deadline push so West “doesn’t leave.” A lawsuit, Folden said, could push the opening into mid-2018.
Folden said the authority is relying on its consultant, Ricondo and Associates. The firm also worked for the authority on construction of its administration building, which opened in 2015. Folden said the board will “raise more questions” at Wednesday’s meeting.
Mizner 200 crawls toward approval
Progress continues toward a version of Mizner 200 that the Boca Raton City Council could approve. At least one participant in the talks, however, doesn’t think that a final version can get to the city in time to make the agenda for Monday’s meeting of the city council acting as the community redevelopment agency.
Doug Mummaw is the architect for Investments Limited, which owns Royal Palm Place across Mizner Boulevard from where the condo project would replace the Mizner on the Green rental complex. Investments Limited has been representing itself, the Townsend Place condo to the south of Mizner 200 and Boca Beautiful in the discussions with architects Peter Stromberg and Jorge Garcia, who designed the project. Mummaw made a point of saying that the discussions, which began three days after the city council on July 25 asked for design changes, have not included lawyers from either side.
Though city staff and the city’s architectural consultant concluded that Mizner 200 satisfied the requirements of Boca Raton’s downtown ordinance, Mummaw argued otherwise before the council. Obviously, his argument was persuasive. Mummaw said the “collaborative” discussions have produced “major, significant” changes that will make Mizner 200 “an exquisite building with a lot of movement.”
Critics had said Mizner 200 would be too massive as it stretched for almost 900 feet, thus overwhelming the street and the neighborhood. Among the changes, Mummaw said, are varied rooflines and another 9,000 square feet of green space facing Mizner Boulevard. At the July 25 meeting, Mummaw raised six specific objections. The changes, he said Monday, have addressed all of them.
As others in the discussions have told me, relatively quick progress has been possible because the project manager for Elad Properties—the developer—has been present and can speak for the company. Mummaw praises Stromberg and Garcia for their willingness and ability to be flexible and work quickly.
Yet as Mummaw acknowledges, Mizner 200 is a large, complicated project. A change in one area affects other areas. “They have to put everything through the rinse cycle with their team,” Mummaw said, in preparing a modified development application for the city to review.
Obviously, the goal is a new application that everyone can endorse. The application would have to be ready no later than today, and that would be pushing it. The city will post the agenda Wednesday afternoon.
Royal Palm Place: Phase 2
Coincidentally, on Thursday Mummaw and Investments Limited will present their plan for Phase 2 of Royal Palm Place to The Mellgren Planning Group. Mellgren is the consultant that found Mizner 200 in compliance with the downtown ordinance, after first finding the project not in compliance.
As I reported, Royal Palm Place Phase 2 is a major project, like Mizner 200. Its two key components are on the west side, facing Federal Highway, and in the northeast corner. That second component includes new residential development and would be across Mizner Boulevard from Mizner 200.
Delray to—again—attempt to put it’s downtown parking plans in drive
The Delray Beach City Commission will try for the third time tonight on a downtown parking plan.
This presentation comes from the Downtown Development Authority, which notes that the DDA represents 1,000 business owners. The group favors a far less ambitious approach than some commissioners, calling it “start slow and grow.”
Rather than install smart meters at all 2,600 downtown spaces, the DDA wants meters at just 245 spaces on and near East Atlantic Avenue. The DDA wants free parking to remain on Atlantic west of the Intracoastal Waterway until noon, with a rate of $1 per hour until 5 p.m. and $1.75 per hour after that. The limit would be two hours until 5 p.m. and three to four hours after that.
East of the bridge, the rate would be $1.50 per hour—beginning at 9 a.m.—with a two-hour limit. On Northeast Second Avenue, the rate would be $1 per hour—starting at noon—with the limit ranging from two hours to three hours. On A1A, the DDA proposes a rate of $1.75 per hour with a four-hour maximum.
The DDA also proposes a flat rate of $5 for all city garages. After that, however, the group’s push is for free parking with longer limits. The DDA also wants the city to add spaces and create “a parking program that is consistent with and enhances the Delray Beach brand, a plan that provides a welcoming environment and supports the downtown small businesses.”
In addition, the DDA proposes a plan under which business owners could pay $150 per year or $20 per month for employee parking. The DDA says this aspect of the program is modeled after one in Sarasota. There also should be “incentives”—unspecified—for employees to commute using something besides their cars. City residents could pay $95 annually to park anywhere downtown.
The DDA helpfully suggests that the city commission can “Make Parking Fun!” So far, however, the process has been more like excruciating. The DDA wants the commission to ignore the city’s consultant, who recommends meters for all spaces and demand pricing. The DDA wants the commission to delay any decision until the DDA’s own studies are done.
The fun continues tonight.
Rundown of Boca P&Z’s Thursday agenda items
It’s an especially crowded, varied agenda for Thursday’s meeting of the Boca Raton Planning and Zoning Board. The highlights, in no particular order:
- Boca Raton wants no marijuana dispensaries in the city. The council previously approved annual moratoriums while the Legislature debated how to implement medical marijuana in the state.
In 2014, the Legislature allowed use of non-euphoric marijuana to treat certain medical conditions. Last year, voters approved a constitutional amendment that expands the use of medical marijuana, though the Legislature has ruled that patients can’t smoke it.
Now Boca Raton wants to tell patients that they can’t get it within the city limits. If the city doesn’t specifically exclude them, dispensing centers could be at any licensed pharmacy. The ordinance would prohibit any person or entity from “acquiring, cultivating, possessing, processing, transferring, transporting, selling, distributing, dispensing or administering” marijuana or marijuana-related products.
Under the staff’s proposed schedule, the ordinance would go to the city council for introduction on Sept. 12. Two public hearings would follow on Sept. 26 and Oct. 11. Since 71 percent of voters approved the amendment, it will be interesting to see if the ordinance draws opposition.
- Boca Helping Hands wants to convert a warehouse in the city’s industrial district south of 20th Street into a counseling center. The group has a wonderful record, but staff recommends against this change, calling it incompatible with land use in that area.
The group’s attorney counters in a letter to the city with Boca Helping Hands’ history of helping women, many of them victims of domestic abuse, and their children. As with the marijuana issue, this debate could be interesting.
- As I had reported, the developer of the Ocean Palm condo on the southwest corner of A1A and Palmetto Park Road is before the board asking to add a floor to the six-story condo the council approved last spring. The number of units would stay at 70.
At 65 feet, staff noted in reviewing the initial application, Ocean Palm would be no taller than The Meridian condo. It’s on the northwest corner of the intersection, and drew lots of opposition from neighbors. Ocean Palm, whose developer spent considerable time with the neighbors and got their blessing for the shorter project, would be 10 feet taller than The Meridian.
- A developer wants to put a 20-unit apartment and three single-family homes on nearly two acres at Yamato Road and Northwest Third Avenue. Though this item twice has been postponed after going on the agenda, the board took public comment.
Every speaker from the neighborhood opposed the change, saying that the apartments—Yamato Villas—would bring more traffic and drive down property values. According to the staff memo, the developer asked for the postponements “to meet with the public.” Despite that local opposition, the staff recommends approval.
October closing on Ocean Breeze unlikely
I wrote last week that the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District would like to close in October on its $24 million purchase of the former Ocean Breeze golf course. I sought comment from the city council, which would have to underwrite bonds for that purchase and the cost of improving the course for play.
Mayor Susan Haynie and council members Jeremy Rodgers and Robert Weinroth expressed varying degrees of skepticism, since the district hasn’t answered the city’s many questions about the deal. Chairman Bob Rollins proposed that the district board provide those answers for a September meeting with the council.
Councilman Scott Singer now has relayed his comment: “I don’t see how an October closing and bond agreement are feasible if the answers to the outstanding questions will not come until September.”
Due to an error on the Boca Raton Airport Authority’s website, I referred to authority board member Gene Folden as the chairman. The chairman is Mitch Fogel. The facts have been corrected in this post.