On Wednesday night, the Boca Raton City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that will roll back closing time at Blue Martini and Nippers from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. They are the only bars in the city serving alcohol for those extra three hours. Mayor Susan Haynie introduced the ordinance.
I will have more on this in my Tuesday post.
Mizner 200 design compliance
New documents confirm what I recently reported: Boca Raton’s design consultant has found that the proposed Mizner 200 condo project complies with Ordinance 4035, which governs downtown development.
In a March 17 draft report, Mellgren Planning Group concluded that Mizner 200 “does not fully satisfy the design standards included in Ordinance 4035 and its appendices.” Mellgren saw problems with the “limited demonstration of Mizneresque qualities” the condo’s architecture and “the development’s visually substantial scale and mass, which reduces the project’s contextual awareness, human scaled design, and pedestrian-oriented design.” Mizner 200 would have 384 units and stretch nearly 900 feet along Southeast Mizner Boulevard.
In its updated, April 5 report, however, Mellgren said Mizner 200 “meets the standards and regulations set forth in Ordinance 4035, inclusive of all appendices.”
So what happened?
According to the report, Mellgren met on March 29 with the applicant—Elad Properties—and city staff. At that meeting, Elad representatives presented renderings that Mellgren had not seen. The report said the meeting had been planned to take place before release of the draft report, but “scheduling conflicts” got in the way.
At the meeting, architect Peter Stromberg showed Mellgren three-dimensional renderings and a digital model of Mizner 200. “The renderings and model,” the report said, “provided a level of detail and clarity not originally evident. . .This was in part due to the scale of the drawings and the translation of color on plotted images. The renderings produced at the meeting were not included in the initial submission package.
“The detail readily apparent in the graphically rich renderings demonstrated a careful attention to design quality and an understanding of the level of craft Addison Mizner incorporated into his works. Pedestrian-level views were presented and demonstrated the building as it would appear from the public realm, which is drastically different than a standard elevation view … A building that appeared flat and monolithic in the plotted package came to life through convincing depictions of the realistic appearance and character of the materials and design details.”
At a follow-up meeting on March 31, Elad presented revisions that incorporated suggestions from Mellgren. The report lists six other changes that could come from the Community Appearance Board (CAB) when Mizner 200 has its formal review. Among the changes are more variations in the types of window and stone.
Though Mizner 200 doesn’t have a date for that CAB hearing, Elad presumably will now ask for it. The project has had two informal CAB hearings, after which the design was revised, to make one building look more like three.
Opponents will argue that Mellgren’s blessing came without their input. Even if the CAB approves, the planning and zoning board could have issues. BocaBeautiful ran another anti-Mizner 200 ad in Thursday’s South Florida Sun Sentinel, calling the project a “shock block.” But the new Mellgren report, which the city council requested, makes it likelier that the community appearance board will bless the project, after which it would go to the planning and zoning board and then to the council. A decision on Mizner 200 seems more sooner than later.
Midtown, Meadows Road and other items on the P&Z agenda
Members of the Boca Raton Planning and Zoning Board will need lots of coffee for tonight’s meeting.
In addition to proposals for Midtown (see next item) the board will hear the first item from Boca Raton Regional Hospital related to its makeover on Meadows Road. The topic tonight is the hospital’s parking garage.
Boca Regional wants to build a 50-foot, detached garage that would have 900 spaces and replace the 200 spaces in the surface lot. Current rules for the Medical Center zoning district require a setback of 250 feet from surrounding homes. The proposal before the planning and zoning board would reduce that to 100 feet and require adequate buffering, meaning landscaping and what hospital administrators say would be a 3-foot berm.
Vice President Dan Sacco said hospital representatives have met with neighbors whose homes face the south end of the lot and who would be closest to the garage. Another meeting is scheduled for next week. Sacco said Boca Regional and the architects are working to make the garage as attractive as possible—“like an office building,” Sacco said—and to reduce glare from the lighting.
Sacco and CEO Jerry Fedele, however, note that under Medical Center rules the hospital could build its planned second tower—which would be much higher than the garage—in the same location without asking for changes. The hospital favors that location for the garage because it would provide the easiest, safest access for patients.
After the garage will come applications for the tower, new operating rooms and a new power plant. The garage is coming first because of planning reasons. I will have much more on Boca Raton Regional Hospital’s upgrade in my Tuesday post.
Midtown still is on the Boca Raton Planning and Zoning Board’s agenda for tonight, but it will be a workshop session. The board will take no vote.
Discussions between Crocker Partners, one of Midtown’s largest property owners, and city staff continue over the study by Crocker’s consultant of how much traffic residential and other development within Midtown might generate. The latest meeting came Wednesday, after which Angelo Bianco of Cocker Partners said he wanted more time for the city to “study” the consultant’s report.
Bianco said the analysis went to staff last November, but has been updated to determine how many residential units Midtown could absorb without adding new daily traffic trips if a Tri-Rail station north of Boca Center that the city council supports did not get built. Midtown’s current rules don’t allow residential projects. Bianco said as many as 1,300 units could be built without generating added traffic. The proposals before the planning and zoning board call for 2,500 units.
Regarding the comment in the staff report that Midtown could get all the way to 2,500 units without a Tri-Rail station, Bianco said: “The traffic study has always shown that the train station affords the lowest reduction of all the various components of the proposal that justify trip reductions. The increased internal capture from the placement of new residential next to existing commercial with enhanced bicycle and pedestrian connections that stitch together the new mix of uses in the area will have much greater impact on traffic reduction.”
The planning and zoning board first discussed Midtown four months ago. The revised proposals, Bianco said, allow residential only if it doesn’t add traffic trips, allocates residential uses to certain locations based on reduction of traffic and raise the parking requirements. I will have a Midtown update after tonight’s meeting.
Caring Kitchen move
On Tuesday, the Delray Beach City Commission gave itself an ambitious, commendable and possibly unachievable goal.
During its workshop meeting, the commission collectively promised to move the Caring Kitchen from its location in the northwest neighborhood near Spady Elementary School. Everyone acknowledges the good work of the meals program for poor people, but nearby residents—among them Community Redevelopment Agency Chairman Reggie Cox—long have complained about trash, people sleeping outside and other issues.
Mayor Cary Glickstein acknowledged the obvious: Though the Caring Kitchen does the Lord’s work, the city never would have allowed CROS Ministries to set up two decades ago on city-owned land in an affluent—meaning white—neighborhood. Certainly the city never would have waited so long to address the complaints. Glickstein promised residents “the same sentiment as if (Caring Kitchen) were in our community.” He said they had been “patient beyond reasonable expectations.”
Caring Kitchen’s presentation showed that the need for the service is local. Nearly 80 percent of clients come from “The Set,” the neighborhoods near Caring Kitchen. Almost two-thirds of them walk there. Given the work, and the need for parking to accommodate volunteers, Caring Kitchen doesn’t belong in a residential area. Still, it must be to remain fairly close to the people it serves.
Commissioners wondered whether the county might offer space at the government complex on Congress Avenue, which is roughly 1.5 miles from Caring Kitchen. There’s talk of a south-county homeless shelter there. But Commissioner Jim Chard said the county had been “a challenge” for the Congress Avenue Task Force. “You don’t know until you ask,” Glickstein said. County Commissioner Steven Abrams, whose district includes part of Delray Beach, said, “They can ask, and we can give them an answer.”
The more interesting option involves the city-owned former train depot just west of Interstate 95. Chard, who served on the Congress Avenue Task Force, and others have envisioned the property as marketable to investors. If the city sought bidders, one condition could be that the buyer accommodate Caring Kitchen, not at the depot but at a location fairly near where the clients sleep. Chard compares it to the condition that went with approval of Worthing Place to build a nearby public parking garage.
A grant could provide money to rehab the building, but Caring Kitchen might need to raise $1 million for a kitchen and other improvements. A Caring Kitchen representative, however, said that moving to the current location in 1997 required an extra $86,000, of which Caring Kitchen raised just $5,000.
Glickstein said the depot would raise “access” issues for Caring Kitchen; clients would need to cross the highway. For buyers, though, he said the depot offers “a highly visible location” and proximity to a large apartment complex that is under construction. Existing businesses, such as Saltwater Brewery, might want to expand. Commissioner Mitch Katz said the approach might give Caring Kitchen enough certainty to start raising money.
But how long will Caring Kitchen’s neighbors wait? Interim City Manager Neal de Jesus said it “could easily by another year” with the depot. What if a solution requires money from the city or CRA? If the city can’t thread the needle, would the commission consider evicting Caring Kitchen, which is leasing month-to-month?
“I don’t want to,” Katz said. “I’m pretty optimistic.”
Chard said, “I don’t think that would happen. I think the number is two years.” He believes that the neighbors will be patient if they see progress.” Glickstein, though, said, “I think so, as continuing indefinitely is not fair to the host neighborhood.”
The promise is clear. The plan for keeping that promise is less clear.
Last week, I provided an update on plans to establish a “quiet zone” along the Florida East Coast Railway corridor between Boca Raton and West Palm Beach when the Brightline passenger service begins. In that post, I wrote that the quiet zone might first be in effect between West Palm Beach and Lantana.
I have since spoken with Nick Uhren, director of the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization. He clarified that point.
Uhren said the first test of the quiet zone—no train horns—would come on that West Palm Beach-Lantana stretch because All Aboard Florida would be testing the new trains. They would not carry passengers. The company would be testing switches on the new double track, Uhren said, and working to “mitigate the noise impact.” Once passenger service started, the quiet zone would take effect between West Palm Beach and Boca Raton.
Unfortunately, Uhren could provide no details about what safety improvements required for the quiet zone remain unfinished. All Aboard Florida won’t provide the information. Uhren said, however, “I have no good reason to doubt” that the work will be done when the Brightline service starts running in July.