Office Depot Building Sold, Alina Approved and More News of Note in Delray and Boca

Renderings of the former Office Depot site project

All the flags have been dropped for development of the former Office Depot site in Delray Beach.

Last month, the city commission approved the rezoning and site plan for the roughly 42-acre site on South Congress Avenue bordered on the north by Old Germantown Road. Last week came news of the closing on the property. Three companies bought the site—which is comprised of three parcels—from an entity of Transamerica Insurance. The price was $33 million. Transamerica had bought the property out of foreclosure in 2010 for $1 million, according to the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s website.

The new owners—13th Floor Investments, Key International and CDS International Holdings—plan a mixed-use project that will include as many as 1,009 rental apartments and townhomes. The residential-only portion of the project will have 759 units. Another 250 could be included in the commercial portion. The project also will include a 1.8-acre park. Jogging and bike trails will connect the project to the Delray Beach Natural Area, which borders the property on the south.

According to a news release, CDS will build the retail-office component in the northeast portion of the site, where the Arbors office tower stands. The developers will demolish that buildings and those that were Office Depot’s headquarters before the company moved to its current location in Boca Raton.

Office Depot announced in 2006 that it was leaving for Boca Raton, claiming that the Delray Beach facility was dated and inefficient. Ever since that departure, the city has tried to find a replacement, forming the Congress Avenue Task Force to draw interest in the sometimes forgotten area west of Interstate 95.

Keith O’Donnell, a principal in the Boca Raton office of Avison Young, brokered the sale. Negotiations took three years, with the sale contingent on city approvals. O’Donnell’s association with the property dates to when IBM employees worked there in the 1960s.

The property, O’Donnell said Monday, needed more than just office.

“You need the residential to draw people and support retail.”

O’Donnell noted that the Park at Broken Sound—formerly the Arvida Park of Commerce— had been only office at its creation decades ago because that component worked. More recently, Boca Raton has approved housing for the park, to create a better balance.

According to the memo from city planners, the project will have 250,000 square feet of retail, 80,000 square feet of restaurant and 70,000 square feet of office. O’Donnell estimates that 75 percent will be multi-family housing. The approval requires the developers to help reduce the impact from traffic, especially on Old Germantown Road.

Delray Beach officials hope the project will draw young families whose children attend Delray Beach schools. The city is working separately to upgrade public education, having seen how popular schools have boosted Boca Raton’s economy.

The developers do not have an estimate for the cost of the project, but construction is expected to take between three and four years. If the project succeeds, it will be the complement to downtown that Delray Beach has wanted.

Alina approval

Boca Raton finally has approved the update for the downtown Alina condominium.

Elad Properties got approval for the 384-unit project in August 2017. Early last year, the company asked to build Alina in two phases. The first will be on the north side of the site, on Southeast Mizner Boulevard.

The proposal drew criticism from residents of Townsend Place, the condo to the south. Negotiations with the city dragged on. A hearing before the community redevelopment agency in December resulted in another delay, to Monday’s meeting.

(Courtesy Douglas Elliman)

Bonnie Miskel, Elad’s attorney, had told me last week that the two sides were close to a deal. On Monday, representatives of Townsend Place and Investments Limited—which owns Royal Palm Place—spoke in favor of the changes from the original proposal. Most involve landscaping along the street and contingencies if Elad decides not to build the second phase. The company has said repeatedly that it plans to build it.

The city council, acting as the CRA, approved the phasing plan, 4-1. Andrea O’Rourke was the only no vote, saying that she was “very disappointed in the process” and apologizing for “my soliloquy.”

Councilman Jeremy Rodgers better summed up the mood. He called the decision “a really good win.”

New bowl contract

I wrote last month that negotiations are underway to for a new Boca Raton Bowl contract. The final game of the original, six-year deal takes place in December. It’s also the third and final year of the deal that makes Cheribundi the game’s name sponsor.

ESPN’s Doug Mosley, the game’s executive director, reiterated to me last week that all parties want the game to continue. He called December’s meeting between the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) and Northern Illinois “a great matchup.” Aside from the four-team playoff and the New Year’s Day games, the Boca Bowl was the only match of conference champions, from Conference USA and the Mid-American Conference.

Mosley called the weeklong run-up to the game “very good with the exception of a rainy Saturday. Both Monday night pep rallies were outstanding, especially with the UAB graduation ceremony in Boca.” The university held a special commencement for 15 players who could not attend the ceremony in Birmingham because of the bowl trip.

Game day weather was perfect. Mosley said, “Preliminary audience numbers have been better than expected, particularly with the game not being close at the end. (UAB won 37-13.)” The network “on our night in sports programming again.”

In terms of local support, Mosley called it “great. All in all, a really good year.” The game was on Dec. 17, and Mosley wants “the calendar to flip for us so that our game date falls a bit closer to Christmas. We miss out on too many families on 12/17 due to school. But the other side of the coin on that is we own the night, so it accomplishes goals for city/county and Cheribundi.”

Tri-Rail Yamato site development proposals

The Boca Raton Tri-Rail station. (Photo by Aaron Bristol)

The agency that runs Tri-Rail has entered negotiations with a local developer for the 6.6-acre site next to the Tri-Rail station on Yamato Road.

Steven Abrams, the ex-Boca Raton Mayor and county commissioner who began this month as Tri-Rail’s director, told me that the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority had three proposals. One was for residential. Another was for a hotel. PEBB Enterprises proposes a medical office project. Abrams said the Tri-Rail board chose that option last month because the lease terms are good for the agency and the plan likely will pose fewer potential problems when it goes to Boca Raton for review.

Among other things, Abrams said, the city council would have to raise the cap on residential units for the Planned Mobility Development district that includes the property. The city already faces lawsuits over the council’s refusal to set rules for residential development in Midtown, another area designated for Planned Mobility Development.

PEBB is based in Boca Raton. In 2015, a plane crash in Ohio killed seven of the company’s employees. Pilot error on the landing was the cause. The company has properties in Florida and nine other states.

CLARIFICATION

In City Watch’s year-in-review post, the arrest of Mayor Susan Haynie was cited as a key 2018 story. Please note that Mayor Haynie has pleaded Not Guilty to charges, and that the Batmasians have not been accused of any wrongdoing in relation to these charges.—Marie Speed, Ed.

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