Boca Raton’s industrial area, which once fueled the city’s go-go growth but has slumped as of late, is getting a new ingredient officials hope will bring fresh life into the city: Rental units.
The 370 residential units approved by the City Council will be the first buildings in the Arvida Park of Commerce in northwest Boca to have bedrooms. It’s a departure for what was originally envisioned as a center for corporate headquarters, but it’s just the ticket to lure new employers, the City Council was told.
“This will solve some of the issues that our businesses share. We don’t have the right-sized human capital pool in our city,” said Boca real estate developer Jamie Danburg. His company will have another rental project for the northwest section of the city up for City Council approval next month. “This is a watershed moment for the city of Boca Raton.”
Vacancies in the industrial area have topped 1.5 million square feet during some periods since IBM Corp’s departure in the 1990s. But having someplace for employees to live nearby will renew interest that could lure new corporate headquarters, the thinking goes.
The first phase, expected to start before the end of the year, will build four, two-story apartment buildings that look like town homes, ranging in size from 1,609 to 1,716 square feet per unit. Also, there will be six, five-story buildings with apartments ranging in size from 770 to 1,543 square feet per unit. Rents will range from $1,400 to $3,000 for those units.
Residents will have a clubhouse, along with other amenities such as a tot playground, a putting green, a dog park and a pocket park.
Boca has been on three-year journey to revamp the zoning codes to allow residential use in this industrial zone. And a critical part of that re-do has been ensuring that the residential units have amenities that encourage residents to walk, ride a bike or use transportation other than their personal car. It’s called planned mobility.
But this project, at first, did not have enough amenities to earn the “planned mobility” designation. City staff members were recommending against the City Council’s approval.
But that nay turned to a yea when the developers agreed to build six new showers — three for each gender — and nine locker rooms at an existing office building located on the same parcel, so walkers and bikers will have someplace to freshen up. Also contributing to its official designation as “planned mobility,” the developer also agreed to contribute to a van that would drive residents around.
The Arvida Park of Commerce, which once housed corporate headquarters for Washington Mutual and Siemens, is currently undergoing a re-branding as “The Park at Broken Sound,” as a result of its new uses, said Glenn Gromann, a land-use attorney who represents five property owners in the park’s association.
Some critics have cast doubt on whether residents will use alternative transportation, but Gromann predicted that with projects such as the one at 900 Broken Sound Parkway, Boca will become a model for housing that takes cars off the road.
“This is exciting,” he said.