Boca Raton Readies For Downtown Growth Spurt

February 18th, 2015

Drive across the city’s downtown, and it’s easy to see a city about to grow expansively.

The clanking of construction can be heard from the sites of four buildings that will reach heights of seven to 12 stories. When completed, they’ll provide 1,181 new rental apartments.

Two other 12-story buildings are poised to begin construction: A 170-unit condo building and the downtown’s first hotel, which will have 200 rooms.

The city will feel the impact of this downtown growth spurt during the next couple of years, as renters and owners settle into these high-rises. Some call it the near-realization of a vision set out by city voters 23 years ago — one that calls for the heart of the city evolving into a metropolitan destination.

Palmetto Promenade

This is the site of construction in progress for Palmetto Promenade, a 378-unit apartment complex, which will extend for 900 feet along East Palmetto Park Road when it’s completed. (Mark Randall, Sun Sentinel)

“The buildings are beautiful,” said Karen Lindholm, a Boca Raton real estate agent. “I do like it and I think it’s progress.”

The latest buildings will help redefine the downtown skyline, and city leaders say they’ll also provide a much-needed boost to downtown.

Once the six new buildings all are built, the number of downtown residences will have almost doubled since 2013, the year the latest wave of construction began. There will be 3,157 residential units downtown by the end of next year or soon thereafter. That will be 1,443 more units than in 2013.

And the majority of the new buildings will be 12 stories high, in compliance with temporary guidelines adopted by the city in 2008. They allow certain buildings to rise three or four stories higher than the traditional limit of downtown buildings. Before that, the buildings were limited to reach nine or 10 stories.

The first to be built under those rules, the 12-story Mark at CityScape, is scheduled for completion next month. It will open at 11 Plaza Real South, near the intersection of Palmetto Park Road and Federal Highway.

Down the road, another 12-story apartment rental complex, Via Mizner, is under construction, at the corner of Camino Real and Federal Highway.

Palmetto Promenade, also under construction, is the largest project, at nine stories and with 378 apartment units. It starts at Northeast Third Street and Palmetto Park Road, and extends eastward for 900 feet. Its varied façade gives the appearance that it consists of multiple buildings, when it’s really one big structure, according to planners.

Boca’s downtown building-height limits were adjusted to create a more varied skyline, with a more graceful appearance, said Glenn Gromann, chairman of the Downtown Boca Raton Advisory Committee.

Taller heights were allowed to encourage developers to do more than build a cheaper, boxier version of a building, Gromann said. The new guidelines call for the building to be farther back from the street as the stories rise, he said.

“That opens up a light corridor, so you don’t have the canyon effect,” he said. “You’re going to see a varied skyline, with trellises and balconies. It’s a tried-and-true way of making the architecture more interesting.”

That’s what has been accomplished with the new buildings, he said.

Better views also command higher rents, or condominium prices, developers agree.

City leaders are hoping that bringing more residents in to support downtown businesses will lead to stronger downtown retail in places where “vacant” signs proliferated. They agree that downtown has suffered as a center of commerce since the Town Center at Boca Raton mall opened in the city’s western edge.

The new residential buildings will bring “a vibrancy to the downtown after regular work hours,” because residents living downtown will be among those frequenting the restaurants and businesses there, said Mayor Susan Haynie.

The downtown growth has become a campaign issue for the March 10 City Council election. All three candidates for the current open City Council seat say that the temporary guidelines that allowed taller Boca buildings need to be revisited, if not reversed.

Although there are the six developments underway, recent City Council actions have made it possible for more parcels to eventually become the sites of high-rises.

John Calfa, managing director at JRC Investments, is the owner of one such downtown property that recently became eligible to have a high-rise built on it. Would he one day reconstruct his property — a one-story retail strip at 70 S. Dixie Highway — into a building that reaches the downtown height limit?

“Perhaps we would,” he said.

Here’s a look the six buildings approved and underway in downtown Boca Raton:

The Palmetto Promenade

Units: 378 rental apartments, nine stories

Location: Northeast Third Avenue and Palmetto Park Road

Status: Under construction

The Mark at CityScape

Units: 208 rental apartments, 12 stories

Location: 11 Plaza Real South

Status: Under construction

Via Mizner

Units: 366 rental apartments, 12 stories

Location: At Camino Real and Federal Highway

Status: Under construction

The Boca Lofts

Units: 229 rental apartments, seven stories

Location: At 33 SE Eighth St.

Status: Under construction

Tower One Fifty-Five

Units: 170 condominiums, 12 stories

Location: 100 block of East Boca Raton Road.

Status: City-approved plan, but construction hasn’t begun

Hyatt Place Hotel Boca Raton

Units: 200-room hotel, 12 stories

Location: At Palmetto Park Road and Federal Highway.

Status: City-approved plan, but construction hasn’t begun

Source: SunSentinel

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