Boca Raton’s downtown building boom may be near end, city says

Amid a recent downtown building boom, Boca Raton’s mayor says the growth spurt could be coming to an end as the city gets closer to fulfilling a redevelopment plan set in the early ’90s.

The building boom in downtown Boca may seem never-ending: Seven new high-rises have soared between seven and 12 stories to redefine the city’s skyline.

And several more buildings are under construction. But the finish line to this extreme makeover is now in sight, the city says.

Two newly proposed apartment buildings would make the downtown hit 100 percent of its building potential, possibly bringing the current growth spurt to an end, the city said. The latest proposals to emerge:

  • A 384-unit complex called Mizner 200, which would be built at 200 SE Mizner Blvd.
  • Camino Square, which would open with 350 units at 171 W. Camino Square.

Both plans, which would be built in the next few years, still are in the design stages. And if approved, they would make the city fulfill its longtime goal: redeveloping 8 million square feet of downtown space.

“What we’ve been doing over the last 25 years is bearing fruit,” City Councilman Robert Weinroth said.

So far, seven out of at least 11 major planned buildings downtown have wrapped up construction while others are either on the way or soon to break ground. Several developments offer both living and retail space.

The city’s efforts to bolster the downtown stem from 1980 when officials designated downtown as “blighted” and focused on overhauling the predominately office-filled area. The plan led to the realization of Mizner Park, the shopping and dining hub, and the park at Sanborn Square, which has hosted an array of concerts and festivals. It also led to the city’s push to redevelop 8 million square feet downtown.

Boca city officials credit the recent renaissance downtown to the economic recovery after the Great Recession.

“As things improved, people all of a sudden renewed interest in developing projects,” Weinroth said. “All of a sudden the development is coming quickly.”

The rapid rise of new buildings has sparked fierce debate in Boca about the future of downtown development.

Proponents say such redevelopment is an economic boon and a symbol of a thriving city, while several community groups argue it’s a mistake to let development loom large. Among their concerns: the extra traffic that would result from having 1,461 new residential units downtown.

Development has become a prominent issue of campaigns in Tuesday’s city election.

“It’s been overwhelming to people,” said Mayor Susan Haynie, who’s running for re-election. “They think this is the beginning, and it’s never going to end. It is going to end eventually.”

Al Zucaro, Haynie’s challenger in the race, wants the growth spurt to end. He remains wary that the City Council only needs to adjust city rules to allow even more growth.

“If this council keeps its pro-development posture, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be a movement to move this upward,” Zucaro said. “It’s easy to change anything. It’s just an ordinance.”

Last month, city staff projected the downtown will need 1,200 to 2,000 more parking spaces to accommodate growth, on top of the 651 existing parking spaces.

The city also pumped up last year’s nearly $135,800 downtown policing budget to $984,800 for this year, according to its budget.

City officials hope the new projects will mean less traffic because people will be able to walk a short distance from their downtown homes to shops and restaurants. Also plans for downtown trolleys and shuttles may reduce the need for vehicles downtown, they said.

Once Boca hits its redevelopment goal, the city likely would halt its focus on renovating the downtown, Haynie said. She said she doesn’t see any major projects moving in for years, but said existing buildings still could be knocked down and redeveloped.

“There’s about 17 percent left,” Haynie said of the goal to redevelop 8 million square feet of downtown space. “There’s really only a couple significant projects coming forward.”

In the past two years, two of four 12-story projects were completed between Mizner Park and Camino Real. The four projects came after Boca temporarily upped its building height limit, from nine or 10 stories, in 2008. They include:

  • Tower 155, an apartment building that broke ground in November and is expected to be completed in fall 2018.
  • Hyatt Hotel at 100 E. Palmetto Park Road, which was completed in December.
  • The Mark at CityScape at 11 Plaza Real South, which opened in mid-2015.

A fourth project, Via Mizner, comprises three 12-story buildings, one of which was completed in September. The other two, including a Mandarin Hotel, are scheduled to break ground later this year.

Some business owners are hopeful more people downtown will boost the local economy.

“For me as a business owner in downtown, I love it because it’s good for business,” said Ron Filocomo, owner of Big Kahuna Tattoo near the new 12-story Hyatt hotel, which opened in December. “I’m happy about it and I would love for people to be walking past our shop all the time.”

Tower 155, at 199 E. Boca Raton Road, is just across the street from Adriana Saenz’s tailoring shop. The building’s construction has been tough for Saenz’s business, she said, leaving only a few parking spots to spare. But she’s eager for the final result, she said.

“It’s been hard for my clients to get here,” Saenz said. “But I’m looking forward to more clients and more business.”

Boca’s building boom

While seven new high-rise buildings have gone up in Boca’s downtown, at least five other major buildings are either on their way or soon to break ground. Here’s a look at the city’s major downtown construction projects since 2013.

Completed

Boca City Walk

  • Units: 229 apartments
  • Address: 33 SE Eighth St.
  • Number of buildings: One building, seven stories

Hyatt Place

  • Units: 200 hotel rooms
  • Address: 120 E. Palmetto Park Road
  • Number of buildings: One 12-story building

The Mark at CityScape

  • Units: 208 apartments
  • Address: 11 Plaza Real South
  • Number of buildings: One 12-story building

Palmetto Promenade/Archstone

  • Units: 378 apartments
  • Address: 333 E. Palmetto Park Road
  • Number of buildings: Two nine-story buildings and one 10-story building

Via Mizner (Phase One)

  • Units: 366 apartments
  • Address: 101 E. Camino Real
  • Number of buildings: One 12-story building

Under construction

327 Royal Palm Road

  • Units: 25 condominiums
  • Address: 327 E. Royal Palm Road
  • Number of buildings: One nine-story building

Tower 155

  • Units: 170 apartments
  • Address: 199 E. Boca Raton Road
  • Number of buildings: One 12-story building

Via Mizner (Phase Two)

  • Units: 85 apartments and 164 hotel rooms
  • Address: 798 S. Federal Highway
  • Number of buildings: Two 12-story buildings

Proposed

Camino Square

  • Units: 350 units, building height yet to be determined
  • Address: 171 W. Camino Square

Mizner 200

  • Units: 384 units, building height yet to be determined
  • Address: 200 SE Mizner Blvd.
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Author: Chris Salamone

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