Penn-Florida has submitted to Boca Raton its preliminary site plan application for University Village, the mixed-use project on 77 acres along Spanish River Boulevard just north of Florida Atlantic University.
University Village will include nearly 800 multi-family residential units and about 350,000 square feet of commercial development. The commercial portion will include a 185-room hotel, offices, shops and restaurants.
When the city council approved University Village in November 2015—after midnight, and after many late changes—Penn-Florida had presented only a master plan for the community. The detailed site plan shows only a few changes. Most notably, there are 48 fewer housing units. The overall density is 10 units per acre, half of what the city allows. There’s slightly more office and slightly less retail. Construction of the 17 parcels will be phased, but Penn-Florida seeks approval for the entire site plan.
No building will be taller than 85 feet. Some will be lower because University Village will be in the flight path of Boca Raton Airport. Near adjoining single-family neighborhoods, the height limit will be 25 feet.
Boca Raton designated this site for Planned Mobility Development, meaning that Penn-Florida must design it to reduce traffic. In its site plan application, Penn-Florida says the hub of University Village will be “a central boulevard and park.” Restaurants and shops along the boulevard will create “an active and lively street life.” The goal is to give residents enough services within the project that they have less need to leave in their cars.
Obviously, however, people will need to go in out of University Village. So a transit center will provide connections to public transportation—such as the county’s Palm Tran bus service—and University Village’s shuttle service. It will be a 10-minute walk to the Tri-Rail station near Yamato Road. Penn-Florida will improve signs and lighting on the adjoining El Rio Trail “to create a safe route to walk or bike to FAU and the Tri-Rail station.” There will be a school bus stop.
Penn-Florida says lease terms for University Village “will encourage employees and residents to participate” in its program for managing traffic. Penn-Florida is “committed to encouraging users, especially for the office and hotel uses, to provide incentives to guests and employees to use car pools, van pools, bicycles, Tri-Rail, and other alternative modes of transportation.”
Most neighbors strongly opposed University Village, fearing that it would cause gridlock on Spanish River Boulevard, which the council pledged not to widen from four lanes. Without the new Interstate 95 interchange nearby, which provides a quick trip to the highway, the project might have failed for lack of road capacity.
It’s impossible to predict the impact from perhaps 1,500 new residents and all that commercial development. The site is three times larger than Mizner Park. The council must approve the site plan. Only Scott Singer and Jeremy Rodgers remain from the council that approved the project. Rodgers supported it. Singer was the only no vote.
IPIC and Delray on the roof
IPIC opened in Delray Beach two months ago, but the company and the city are not done with each other. Though movies are running, the drama could continue.
On the agenda for today’s city commission is IPIC’s request to modify the project’s site plan. Construction continues on areas outside the theater. The big issue concerns the rooftop garden.
The commission required the garden as a condition of approval and required that anyone—not just theater patrons or employees—have access between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. This demand stemmed from the feeling among some commissioners that residents should have more access because the property once had been home to the library and chamber of commerce. The community redevelopment agency assembled it and sold it to the company.
IPIC wants to add a restaurant/bar to the rooftop. It would be an extension of the restaurant that serves moviegoers. The company proposes other, smaller changes to the design and has submitted a new parking plan.
This proposal doesn’t seem controversial. The public would retain that access during the daytime and iPic already can use the terrace for events related to the theater.
With IPIC, though, even the smallest thing can be controversial. Only Mayor Shelly Petrolia remains from the commission that approved IPIC in mid-2015. Petrolia voted against the project.
Costello up for review
The Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency was supposed to evaluate Executive Director Jeff Costello at the end of last week’s meeting. But City Commissioner/CRA board member Ryan Boylston had to leave, so the board will evaluate Costello next month.
All seven board members, however, have submitted their written evaluations. So residents can get a sense of how things could go.
The evaluation covers 32 categories, from management of the agency’s budget to personnel to oversight of projects. The high score in each category was four. The review covered from May 2018 to April 2019.
Overall, Costello got a rating of 67 percent. If you go by the school grading system, Costello barely is passing.
Not surprisingly, Commissioner Shirley Johnson gave Costello only a 55. She previously tried to fire him and has criticized the director for what she claims is poor communication.
Commissioners Angeleta Gray and Pamela Brinson rated Costello even lower, at 54 and 50 percent, respectively. They became the appointed members when the city commission abolished the independent CRA board in April of last year. Gray complains often about the pace of projects, and Brinson usually follows Gray’s lead.
Commissioner Adam Frankel is Costello’s biggest supporter. His rating was 87 percent. Right behind is Boylston at 80. Commissioner Bill Bathurst gave Costello a 75. Mayor Shelly Petrolia is almost exactly in the middle—68.
What does that mean for Costello? With this commission, it’s hard to predict. Between November and March, the commission fired a city attorney and a city manager. Or the commissioners could be grading Costello on a very tough standard. At this point, the plan is for only an evaluation of Costello. I will have an update before the June CRA meeting.
The migrant brouhaha
Local officials got a jolt last week when Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and others announced that the Department of Homeland Security would be sending 500 detained migrants to the county each week for an indefinite period. Another 500 reportedly would be going to Broward County.
But aside from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) office at the Port of Palm Beach, no official word came. Gov. Ron DeSantis, an ally of President Donald Trump, had heard nothing and was cranky about it.
On Thursday, a letter went to CBP from the Palm Beach County Association of Chief of Police. It informed the local agent that the association had “voted to unanimously oppose this plan.” But the public information office for the Boca Raton Police Department emailed reporters to stress that the letter had been sent at the request of the group’s executive director.
On Sunday, the acting Homeland Security said the administration had considered the migrant dump but rejected it as “not an efficient use of resources.” Former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Neilsen made the same argument against that idea when Trump first proposed it. The president then fired her. This is the Trump administration on immigration. So who knows?
Boca Raton City Attorney Diana Frieser notified city council members last week that she would seek “one or more” executive sessions on lawsuits involving Midtown and the proposal for a large oceanfront duplex.
Such sessions are called “shade meeting,” because Florida’s Sunshine Law allows local governments to meet in secret when discussing litigation or collective bargaining. In both cases, the plaintiffs contend that elected officials violated the Sunshine Law by meeting in private with city administrators to prevent residential development in Midtown and to influence a staff report that recommended denial of a variance for the duplex.
Boca High and Spanish River switch rankings
U.S. News & World Report revised its criteria for high school rankings, and the revision led to one notable change.
In previous years, Boca Raton High School had come out higher than Spanish River. This year, the positions were reversed. U.S. News ranked Spanish River 41st among Florida high schools and Boca High 48th. Nationally, Spanish River was 819th out of roughly 21,000 high schools and Boca Raton was 913th. Suncoast in Riviera Beach (11th) and Dreyfoos in West Palm (13th) again were the highest-ranked schools in Palm Beach County. Students from Boca Raton and Delray attend those choice/lottery schools.
Under the new system, U.S. News emphasizes college preparation—the number of seniors who passed Advance Placement or International Baccalaureate exams and those who took multiple such exams, graduation rates, math and reading proficiency and success with “underserved” students. Spanish River’s graduation rate was 96 percent and its college preparation score was 54.6 percent. For Boca Raton, the percentages were 94 and 52.7.
Jupiter High and Park Vista were the next-highest ranked in the county. After them came Olympic Heights (96/39.6), West Boca (94/39.6) and Atlantic (92/40.4).
In writing this month about Boca Raton possibly outsourcing residential garbage collection, I said the city council would hold two votes on the issue. There will be just one vote, at the meeting next Wednesday.