Friday, May 17, 2024

The Boca National Saga, IPIC Gets a Restaurant, and is Brightline Coming to Boca?

There is another twist in the Boca Raton National story.

On Tuesday, the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District emailed the city to propose having board member Bob Rollins lead a delegation to meet with a city council member and resolve issues related to the golf course. These talks would happen before Tuesday’s scheduled meeting between Rollins and his colleagues and the council.

According to the email, the district’s delegation would include Interim Executive Director Brian Harms, Attorney Sam Goren and Art Koski. At one time, Koski was the district’s interim director, attorney and project manager. The district now contracts with him only to supervise construction of Boca National from the former Ocean Breeze course.

In his former life, Koski negotiated the $24 million purchase price for Ocean Breeze. He got a bonus for that work. City council members believe that the district overpaid, and that sentiment has affected the working relationship on the project. The district paid $5 million in cash, and the city underwrote bonds for the remaining $19 million.

To be a legal meeting before the scheduled meeting, however, the city and district would have to provide public notice at least 72 hours in advance. Monday is a holiday. In addition, the council member would not come with the same colleague-conferred ability to negotiate as Rollins.

Councilman Andy Thomson noted, “I didn’t delegate my decision-making authority to anyone.”

A city spokeswoman said City Manager Leif Ahnell and Deputy City Manager George Brown had been out of town until Tuesday. Brown has been the lead official on golf issues. As of mid-Thursday afternoon, the city had not responded.

“I did think it was kind of a stretch,” Rollins said Thursday. So with the back-channel option gone, he hopes to “start the conversation” Tuesday on the many issues related to Boca National, which would replace Boca Raton’s western course as the city’s 18-hole public layout.

At this point, the district would own and operate Boca National. With the district still seeking an unidentified amount of money from the city, however, nothing is certain except the distance between the two sides. The district’s suggestion Monday only highlights that gap.

The meeting will take place Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the city facility at 6500 N. Congress Ave. In my Tuesday post, I will outline the main issues and possible outcomes.

IPIC gets a rooftop bar/restaurant

IPIC will be able to operate a bar/restaurant atop its theater-office project in downtown Delray Beach.

The city commission approved the site plan change 4-1 on Tuesday. Mayor Shelly Petrolia dissented, continuing her opposition to IPIC. The public will retain access to the rooftop garden until 5 p.m., which is the current rule.

Fans of IPIC founder/CEO Hamid Hashemi had complained that the city kept fighting the project even after the company got initial approval in mid-2015. They pointed out that Hashemi has turned the theater into a gallery, displaying original art, and that the rooftop garden was one of several conditions commissioners demanded to placate those who had opposed IPIC. Then-Commissioner Mitch Katz wanted the rooftop to be public.

That debate in 2015 drew residents who weren’t regulars at commission meetings. They praised iPic as potentially adding a downtown venue that would attract families and others who wanted more than bars and restaurants. Again this week, there was wide community support for the proposal.

Commissioner Ryan Boylston spoke for IPIC before he joined the commission. Denial, he said four years ago, would “cripple the city’s reputation.” For Delray Beach residents to leave town for dinner and movie wasn’t just “inconvenient.” It was “ludicrous.” That new sentiment still prevails.

Reimagining Carver

Older African-Americans retain strong attachment to high schools that were their only option during segregation. One of those schools is Carver High in Delray Beach.

It hasn’t been a high school in decades, but the campus remains home to the Delray Beach Full Service Center for adult education. The Palm Beach County School District plans to build a new facility with money from the 2016 sales tax surcharge. That work will require demolition, but the district had planned at least to keep the gymnasium as a remembrance of Carver and for use as a venue.

After Tuesday’s city commission action, however, the district also will keep two other buildings. A citizens group now can start a drive to refurbish the three old Carver buildings and preserve the history.

Brightline coming?

There’s new talk in Boca Raton of a Brightline station. For most Boca and Delray residents, Brightline has meant fewer train horns—from the quiet zone established after safety improvements—and more trains that can hold up traffic even though the engineers pull only full cars, usually between 60 and 70 miles per hour.

Riding Brightline requires a drive to the Fort Lauderdale station. The line doesn’t extend north past the West Palm Beach station. This week, however, work began on Brightline’s link between West Palm Beach and Orlando. With that milestone, a Boca Raton station “may be more on their radar,” said Steven Abrams. He’s executive director of the Tri-Rail commuter line and a former Boca Raton mayor.

Other reports have suggested that Brightline also might put a station in Aventura and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The company’s media director emailed this response Thursday to my question: “Per our monthly ridership report for the month ended April 30, we are in advanced discussions to establish additional stations in our South Segment system between Miami and West Palm Beach that we expect will also increase ridership.”

Sharing fire training

sober home regulation
(Photo courtesy Delray Beach Fire Rescue)

Boca Raton Fire Department officials are talking with their Delray Beach counterparts about the Delray sharing Boca’s training facility.

Delray Beach had bought property to build its own facility, but problems emerged with the site and the sale fell through. Chief Neal De Jesus—now the interim city manager—has complained about the cost and time of sending firefighters far out of town for training.

A Boca Raton spokeswoman called the talks “preliminary negotiations. Nothing has been decided.”

Missed the last City Watch?

Visit our City Watch page and also sign up for our City Watch e-newsletter, where you’ll get the latest column delivered directly to your inbox.


Randy Schultz
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.

Related Articles

Latest Articles