Saturday, October 16, 2021

Uptown Delray Update, BRRH Tower Named and Other News and Notes From Boca and Delray

Even without a formal bidding process, Delray Beach has drawn lots of interest in the three blocks that were to have been Uptown Atlantic.

The community redevelopment agency owns the property, on the south side of Atlantic Avenue and east of the Fairfield Inn. In March, the new city commission abolished the independent CRA board and took control, adding two commission-appointed members to revive the seven-person board.

At the new CRA’s first meeting in April, Mayor Shelly Petrolia—who also chairs the CRA—led what seemed a rush to kiss and make up with the company that failed to deliver on Uptown, the mixed-use project Equity Delray had planned to build on the land. The CRA had picked Equity Delray in late 2013. Three years later, the CRA terminated the sale because the agency determined that Equity didn’t have financing.

Yet right after March election, Equity’s John Flynn sent a letter to the city expressing new interest. Petrolia argued that because its development approvals remain active, Equity could deliver something faster than if the CRA formally asked for bids.

Eventually, however, the commission/CRA gave other developers 30 days to submit proposals as the city worked on a new purchase agreement with Equity. At City Commissioner Ryan Boylston’s urging, the commission/CRA agreed to hold a workshop meeting—discussion only; no votes. That happens Monday.

Six additional developers responded. Counting Equity, that makes four more prospects than the city had in 2013. The new proposals also are interesting enough that the commission/CRA should hold off on Equity and start a formal bid process.

Consider first that Equity would pay just $1.2 million for property that is appraised at $15.5 million. Even if you factor in that the city cares more about redeveloping West Atlantic than making a profit on the sale, $1.2 million would make Delray Beach look like a patsy.

And there are better offers.

Boca Raton-based Altman Development would pay $3 million. BH3 Management would pay $6 million. KAREP Acquisitions would pay $2 million. Keller Williams would pay nearly $3 million. New Urban Communities would pay $4 million, though half would be in the form of a purchase money mortgage five years after closing. Prime Investors & Developers would pay $3 million or would consider a lease of at least 40 years.

Back stories come with some of the proposals. KAREP’s documents include testimonials from residents of The Set. Those three blocks are key to making The Set a destination. KAREP also includes a letter from Yvonne Odom. She was one of two candidates on whom the previous commission deadlocked when trying to fill the seat of former Commissioner Al Jacquet. Petrolia voted twice against Odom.

As for New Urban Communities, the company bid on the site in 2013. The staff ranked New Urban first, but the CRA board chose Equity. Prime developed the Fairfield Inn and has a large regional portfolio.

Then, of course, there’s Equity Delray—now rebranded as Uptown Atlantic LLC. Flynn wasn’t at the April meeting, but one presumes that he will attend the Monday workshop.

The last time Flynn was in City Hall, the CRA rejected his request for delay and called off the sale. This CRA is willing to give Flynn more time, but there also are more competitors. With luck, the workshop will end with the commission/CRA agreeing to consider all offers.

El Rio Park

On Tuesday, the Boca Raton Parks and Recreation Board will hold a public hearing on Phase II of Hillsboro El Rio Park. The hearing will start at 5:15 in the community room of the downtown library.

This portion of the park is on the south side of Southwest 18th Street between the El Rio Canal and Dixie Highway. The board is seeking comment on what features to add or remove from the site plan. The park is expected to have a non-motorized boat launch onto the canal and several tennis, basketball and pickleball courts.

S.W. 18th Street

Part of the Hillsboro El Rio Park expansion is improvements to that portion of Southwest 18th Street. The work began in March and is expected to take nine months.

Drivers might have wondered why portions of Dixie Highway north and south of 18th Street also have been closed off. A spokeswoman said the city is installing a new water main. Boca Raton regularly combines public works projects, to save money and hassle.

Delray’s new parking plan

It’s been nearly two weeks since the start of Delray Beach’s parking plan, which is designed to turn over more downtown spaces on and near East Atlantic Avenue.

In an email, Public Works Director Susan Goebel-Canning said, “The first week appears to be going very well. We are seeing more empty spaces on the street and better use of the garages.” She also said the city was finding “high use” of the parking app.

This may be an even better indicator. City Commissioner Ryan Boylston told me this week that he had received only one email about the new rules.

The downtown post office

We may live in the digital age, but few issues rile up a community like the potential loss of a post office.

The United States Postal Service announced this week that it would remain at the downtown location near Mizner Park. When the Postal Service hinted five months ago that the facility might move or close, the political mobilization was immediate.

City council members started lobbying. So did the offices of U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, who represents Boca Raton, and Lois Frankel. Mayor Scott Singer told me that Deutch spoke with USPS officials. Singer also said the offices of Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio got involved.

Perhaps there could be similar bipartisan cooperation on keeping the Postal Service solvent. In the last budget year, the agency lost nearly $3 billion.

BRRH tower named

Fittingly, the inpatient tower at Boca Raton Regional Hospital will carry the name of Gloria Drummond, the hospital’s founder.

Boca Regional recently announced that local mega-philanthropist Elaine Wold has donated $25 million toward the hospital’s $260 million expansion and renovation campaign. The projects include a parking garage, a power plant and a new tower. New buildings surround the original, 51-year-old tower.

According to a news release, Ms. Wold asked that the new tower carry the late Ms. Drummond’s name. The women were close for four decades. The hospital, though, decided to add the name immediately. As Boca Regional prepares to add a partner and enter a new phase, this is a good call on reminding everyone how it started.

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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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