Sunday, April 14, 2024

University Village goes before P&Z, Aloft Hotel alights in Delray & other news of note

University Village meets P&Z

The flag drops tonight on review of the project that would go on the largest plot of open land east of Interstate 95 in Boca Raton.

University Village would occupy about 77 acres north of Spanish River Boulevard and east of the El Rio Trail. It would be near the new I-95 interchange, which isn’t a coincidence. The project would be a Planned Mobility Development, designed to encourage transit and cycling and thus reduce the traffic from about 1,500 apartments, a 185-room hotel and retail and office space.

Three items related to University Village are before the planning and zoning board. One would create a new planned mobility designation with added development if the applicant can show that a project would not exceed limits on traffic. Another would rezone the property, which Penn Florida brought from Boca Raton Regional Hospital. Still another would allow a master plan for the project, to be built in three phases. (I earlier had reported that work would be done in two phases.)

Given the name, the project would link itself to Florida Atlantic University, which is just to the south. University Village, though, would be 20 blocks north of where the city and FAU envision a student-centered district. So University Village would seek more tenants from among faculty and staff and perhaps graduate students, not hard-partying undergraduates. Housing geared to them is closer to campus. More is likely coming.

With all three issues, the board will recommend that the city council approve or deny them. The new designation would allow a roughly 60 percent increase in floor-to-area ratio than the previous designation. The higher the ratio, the denser the project.

It can be hard to turn planning speak into shirtsleeve English. In an email, however, city planner Jim Bell said the proposed amendment “is not a request to alter” regulations for Planned Mobility Developments. The site doesn’t currently have that zoning designation.

The amendment, Bell said, would “incorporate” those regulations “into a new zoning district that allows (a floor-to-area ration) of 0.40,” which Bell said is “consistent” with the site’s planned mobility land use. The new district otherwise would have the same requirements as Planned Mobility Developments elsewhere in Boca.

According to the application, University Village would feature a transit hub with, among other things, connections to the nearby Tri-Rail station on Yamato Road just west of I-95. But the interchange was a “key factor,” said Charles Siemon, the lawyer who represents University Village. With one quick right turn after leaving the development, residents could be on the highway without clogging roads in the area.

Still, the board and eventually the council will have to consider the project’s compatibility with single-family neighborhoods to the east. The land is undeveloped, and only about a third is zoned for mixed-use.

Islamic school

The planning and zoning board tonight also will consider another item that would affect Boca Raton’s near-northwest neighborhood.

Five blocks to the south of the University Village site is the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, which opened its new mosque three years ago. The center has operated a school, but now wants to build a 12,000-square-foot middle/high school. As with University Village, the board will make a recommendation to the city council.

Tough talk over Samar project

An odd debate took place Tuesday night when the Delray Beach City Commission considered the Samar hotel/condo project.

The issue was seemingly minor. The developer wanted a 5-foot setback waiver on the parking garage. But the discussion got rancorous. Mayor Cary Glickstein berated Planning and Zoning Director Tim Stillings. Commissioner Al Jacquet berated Samar’s Alan Mindel for packing the chamber with Haitian residents. Jacquet is Haitian-American. Many Haitians live and work in the Osceola Park neighborhood that adjoins the development site. Not exactly subtle.

Glickstein remained annoyed that the staff, as he saw it, had sprung a project “two football fields” long on the commission. Indeed, the site is narrow and long—almost 600 feet—south of Southeast Second Street and west of Federal Highway. But the city’s new land use regulations allow the use on that property.

As for Jacquet, he has turned out Haitian residents on issues that he cares about. Last night, however, the same tactic outraged him.

Eventually, commissioners Jordana Jarjura, Mitch Katz and Shelly Petrolia outvoted Glickstein and Jacquet to grant the waiver. Delray Beach thus will get an Aloft hotel. The addition will be one more sign that the city is attracting the younger and the hipper, to whom the Aloft brand is marketed. The project, which includes 35 condos, also will help to clean up an area and an alleyway that neighbors say attract drug users and sellers. One cringe-worthy comment in favor of the project came from a neighbor who said, “This isn’t the boys in the hood; this is East Delray.” In fact, such activity degrades any part of the city.

In an interview, Katz said, “I wouldn’t like to walk through that alley during the day, let alone at night.” He sees the project as an upgrade. The garage will be screened, to reduce glare from headlights facing the homes.

For all those benefits, however, neighbors will face what Petrolia calls “a sheer wall.” She favors rewriting the land use regulations to discourage similar projects.

Jarjura called the vote “difficult.” Though she didn’t like the project, the city’s Site Plan Advisory Review Board had given its approval. She expressed “frustration with our process and the further tweaks that need to be done to our code.” It separates review of a project’s site plan, conditional use and waivers. Jarjura wants a concurrent, comprehensive review “to have a full picture” of a proposed development. She expects Stillings to offer revisions to the code and the review process next month.

A little campaign love?

Coincidence or something else?

On Aug. 18, the Delray Beach City Commission approved conditional uses for the Fourth and Fifth Delray project. The developer is Hamid Hashemi, CEO of iPic Entertainment. The project would include an iPic theater and the company’s corporate office. The commission still must approve the site plan.

Commissioner Al Jacquet was in the 4-1 majority that voted in favor of iPic. Jacquet’s policy ally is former city commissioner and ex-state representative Mack Bernard, who’s running next year for county commissioner.

One week after that vote, Hashemi donated $1,000— the legal limit for the primary—to Bernard’s campaign. So did Premier Aviation of Boca Raton, which Hashemi owns. So did the law firm that is representing iPic.

New sponsor for Boca Bowl

The home of the Boca Raton Bowl still doesn’t have a corporate name, but the game does.

Henceforth, it will be the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl. The sponsor has a direct and an indirect local tie.

Marmot is part of Boca-based Jarden Corp. It’s a Fortune 500 consumer-goods conglomerate whose offices are on Military Trail. The company made news a few months ago when it announced that CEO Martin Franklin had received $118 million in compensation last year.

The indirect tie is that Marmot makes outdoor gear designed mostly for cold weather. Fleece jackets are a big item. Even though the game will be played on Dec. 22, spectators likely won’t need Marmot gear. Of course, South Floridians do stock up for ski trips.

And Boca Raton hopes that Americans who live in states where you need Marmot gear will watch the game and decide to visit. Soon, perhaps FAU also will get that corporate name for its stadium.

Bill Gladstone

A wonderful Floridian died last Saturday.

Bill Gladstone, who retired to Delray Beach in 1995, spent two decades as a juvenile court judge in Miami-Dade County. In that role, he changed the system from one that looked at children as statistics into one that tried to steer them straight. The Miami Herald called him the city’s “conscience on juvenile affairs.” The chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court gives an award each year in Judge Gladstone’s name to recognize a person who helps dependent children in the criminal justice system.

As editorial page editor of The Palm Beach Post, I spent many hours in conversation with Judge Gladstone, who never lost his idealism and sense of purpose. Given the level of governance these days in Florida, we especially feel his loss.

About the Author

Randy Schultz was born in Hartford, Conn., and graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1974. He has lived in South Florida since then, and in Boca Raton since 1985. Schultz spent nearly 40 years in daily journalism at the Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post, most recently as editorial page editor at the Post. His wife, Shelley, is director of The Learning Network at Pine Crest School. His son, an attorney, and daughter-in-law and three grandchildren also live in Boca Raton. His daughter is a veterinarian who lives in Baltimore.

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.

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