Project(s) Update: Boca National, Parks Plan, Camino Square and More

Camino Square

UPDATE:  Because of what the city says were failures to advertise the hearing properly, the Boca Raton Community Redevelopment Agency will not hear the application for the Camino Square project at its Monday meeting. The item likely will be rescheduled for January.


Camino Square, proposed for the old Winn-Dixie shopping center on the edge of downtown Boca Raton, has new momentum.

Last month, the Planning and Zoning Board recommended City Council approval, despite a staff recommendation to the contrary. When the project goes before the community redevelopment agency on Monday, it will have a staff recommendation for approval.

I expect a big turnout from residents of Camino Gardens, the large neighborhood just west of the site at Camino Real and Southwest Third Avenue. Their concern will be traffic, since cars stack up regularly at Camino Real and Second Avenue. The new Brightline trains just east of the intersection further complicate traffic.

To address those concerns, the developers propose to turn that intersection into a roundabout. Planning and Zoning Board members also attached a condition that the developer must build a southbound turn lane at Camino Real and Third Avenue. That would help to keep cars from backing up so far on Third Avenue that they block the entrance to the project.

According to its report, the planning staff then pushed the developer to further reduce potential traffic problems by adding back a right turn lane into the property from Camino Real. Both turn lanes also will be narrowed.

Development Services Director Brandon Schaad said, “Staff not only finds that this eliminates previous queuing concerns, but the narrower lane width is additionally preferable to slow traffic during non-peak times and by reducing pedestrian crossing distances at the intersection, both of which will make the area more walkable.”

Camino Square would have 350 apartments in two, eight-story towers on the east side of the property, near the Florida East Coast Railway tracks. A still-unspecified retail project would be on the west side. City planners suggested that the developer swap those elements, but the real estate arm of Florida Crystals declined, saying that the placement would harm the viability of the retail space.

And Elad

Also on Monday’s CRA agenda is the request from Elad Properties to build its 384-unit condo—now called The Monarch—in two phases. The Monarch will replace Mizner on the Green near Royal Palm Place.

New golf course costs

Plans and costs for Boca Raton’s new golf course are taking shape, but nothing is final.

Board members of the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District, which will operate the course, have decided that the course will have 18 holes on the west side of Second Avenue as it runs through Boca Teeca. On the east side will be a shorter, nine-hole course, a putting green, a learning center, a driving range and a coffee shop.

The remaining question after Monday’s district meeting is where the clubhouse will go. Designer Price Fazio had submitted drawings with the clubhouse on the northwest corner of Second Avenue and Clint Moore Road, where Jeffrey Street ends.

Now, however, the board wants Price Fazio to draw a plan with the clubhouse on the southeast corner. Board Chairman Bob Rollins said that location would reduce traffic problems.

At one point, the district had considered putting a hotel or some other project on that site. But Rollins said real estate consultant CB Richard Ellis concluded that a hotel “was not very feasible,” in large part because of all the hospitality competition nearby. The district also will try to buy the house on the northeast corner of the intersection. Having the property, Rollins said, would allow even more design flexibility.

As promised, Boca National—the current name—will seek to attract golfers of all levels. Each hole will have the usual three tee boxes. At its longest, the course will play at a championship length of 7,300 yards. District board members have said they hope to attract tournaments, whether professional or college.

Building Boca National will cost about $10 million. That doesn’t include the clubhouse, which Rollins said could cost another $3 million. The district wants to complete the course and get people playing before the permanent clubhouse opens.

Still, members of the Boca Raton City Council will consider the total cost when they decide the city’s contribution. Early on, the district said it wanted just bond underwriting from the city for buying the land and creating the new course. That happened with the $24 million purchase, but it’s unclear what happens now. Council members Monica Mayotte, Andrea O’Rourke and Andy Thomson attended last week’s presentation on the course.

Rollins said the board and council need to hold another joint meeting to decide the city’s participation. He would like the district to begin seeking construction bids in January or early February.

In an email, board member Craig Ehrnst said, “Ultimately, the city has to help on the financing or funding. I expect we will all come to agreement, once we have had a chance to evaluate and discuss. My only regret is that this process is taking too long and I am not sure why.”

Board member Steve Engel also wants things to move faster. “The public has had an opportunity to give us their input, both at charrettes and at our regular meetings. If we’re going to get the course built so that we can minimize, if not eliminate, the time span between the closing of (Boca Raton’s western course) and the opening of Boca National, we have to act.”

Yet as Councilman Andy Thomson said, “The (city) staff keeps saying they need hard numbers” before any joint meeting. Someone needs to bring a decision on Boca National in for a landing.

Still waiting…

The course might not be the only item for discussion between the council and board. At least three years after declaring it vital, the two sides still haven’t worked out a master agreement for joint operation of parks. A city spokeswoman said the course has been the priority. True enough. Day in and day out, however, far more people use the parks and participate in the assorted sports programs than will ever use the golf course.

Seeking director

Also by January or February, Rollins said, the district hopes to start its search for a permanent executive director.

Art Koski has been the interim since mid-2012. At one point, Koski also was the district’s lawyer and project manager. The board has hired a new law firm—with Koski staying on to finish the golf course deal—and a new project manager. The return to an in-house director would complete the post-Koski transition.

Andrew Carroll talk

The Delray Beach Historical Society will host a lecture tonight by historian/archivist Andrew Carroll of the War Letters Project. Carroll will speak at 7 p.m. at the Crest Theater.

Carroll founded the Center for American War Letters. According to the society’s news release, the center’s mission is to “collect, preserve and promote extraordinary war-related correspondences so that this generation and those to come will better understand the sacrifices and experiences of U.S. troops, veterans and their loved ones.”

Anyone who watched Ken Burns’ PBS series on The Civil War will remember the letter from a Union soldier named Sullivan Ballou to his wife. Their love, he writes, “seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break.”

Carroll wants to preserve at least 1 million letters spanning every military conflict in the country’s history. At a Wednesday night event, the society asked veterans and their families to donate and share their letters.

Holocaust panel discussion

On Monday, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum hosts a panel discussion titled “What Were We Watching? Americans’ Responses to Nazism through Cinema, Radio and Media.” The event takes place at 7 p.m. at B’nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton.

In a news release, the museum’s regional director said,

“This program helps us to understand how Americans were being informed and educated about the Nazi threat during the 1930s and 40s through the variety of different mediums available at that time. It’s important to learn how leaders in government and entertainment attempted to sway public opinion during World War II and the Holocaust.”

For more information, contact the Museum’s Southeast Regional office at 561/995-6773 or email at southeast@ushmm.org.

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