mizner 200

Mizner 200 Decision Nears, Delray Looks For City Manager, More on Boca Downtown Campus

Game time for Mizner 200

Concept view of the entrance of Mizner 200.

One concept view of the entrance of Mizner 200.

Mizner 200 made today’s agenda for the Boca Raton Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). Whether the city council approves the revised project remains, like the question of whether an injured athlete can play, a game-time decision. Read more

Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
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Customs Facility Delayed, No Marijuana in Boca?

Airport delays

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The customs facility at Boca Raton Airport will open at least two months late.

The plan was that the gateway, which will save private pilots and their passengers an extra stop at Palm Beach International or Fort Lauderdale Executive, was supposed to be ready by Labor Day. But Airport Authority Executive Director Clara Bennett and Authority Board Chairman Mitch Fogel confirmed Friday that the new construction completion deadline is mid-September, with the facility to open in mid-October.

Bennett first told the board in May about potential delays. She updated board members in July. Bennett said the contractor, West Construction, has gone through “a lot of turnover in management.” That’s been the main problem. There were some rain delays, though nothing that Bennett called “unusual” for a South Florida summer.

Executive Director of the Boca Raton Airport Authority, Clara Bennett. Photo by Eduardo Schneider.

Executive Director of the Boca Raton Airport Authority, Clara Bennett. Photo by Eduardo Schneider.

The contract with West is for $4.3 million. West was the low qualified bidder, and Bennett and airport authority board member Gene Folden said the authority board had to choose the low bid, in part because the authority received state and federal grants that come with procurement rules. The work covers construction of the building and improvements to the taxiway and the roadway. Still, it’s not a complicated project. There seems to be no good explanation.

In addition to the authority, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and the city are monitoring the work. Bennett said the authority “cannot tell the contractor how to proceed. We only can document the progress.” Because that progress is behind schedule, the liquidated damages clause of the contract has kicked in. West is being fined $500 per day, plus engineering costs. “It’s disappointing,” Bennett said, “because there has been such excitement.”

Folden worries that, as with a commercial flight that is delayed and then delayed again, the facility may encounter more problems. “I’m not totally optimistic,” Folden told me, “that we’ll make the mid-October deadline.”

As Folden pointed out, “You worry that the fines will exceed the profit” for West, “and the contractor will walk.” The authority “has to balance” its deadline push so West “doesn’t leave.” A lawsuit, Folden said, could push the opening into mid-2018.

Folden said the authority is relying on its consultant, Ricondo and Associates. The firm also worked for the authority on construction of its administration building, which opened in 2015. Folden said the board will “raise more questions” at Wednesday’s meeting.

Mizner 200 crawls toward approval

Concept view of the entrance of Mizner 200.

Concept view of the entrance of Mizner 200.

Progress continues toward a version of Mizner 200 that the Boca Raton City Council could approve. At least one participant in the talks, however, doesn’t think that a final version can get to the city in time to make the agenda for Monday’s meeting of the city council acting as the community redevelopment agency.

Doug Mummaw is the architect for Investments Limited, which owns Royal Palm Place across Mizner Boulevard from where the condo project would replace the Mizner on the Green rental complex. Investments Limited has been representing itself, the Townsend Place condo to the south of Mizner 200 and Boca Beautiful in the discussions with architects Peter Stromberg and Jorge Garcia, who designed the project. Mummaw made a point of saying that the discussions, which began three days after the city council on July 25 asked for design changes, have not included lawyers from either side.

Though city staff and the city’s architectural consultant concluded that Mizner 200 satisfied the requirements of Boca Raton’s downtown ordinance, Mummaw argued otherwise before the council. Obviously, his argument was persuasive. Mummaw said the “collaborative” discussions have produced “major, significant” changes that will make Mizner 200 “an exquisite building with a lot of movement.”

Critics had said Mizner 200 would be too massive as it stretched for almost 900 feet, thus overwhelming the street and the neighborhood. Among the changes, Mummaw said, are varied rooflines and another 9,000 square feet of green space facing Mizner Boulevard. At the July 25 meeting, Mummaw raised six specific objections. The changes, he said Monday, have addressed all of them.

As others in the discussions have told me, relatively quick progress has been possible because the project manager for Elad Properties—the developer—has been present and can speak for the company. Mummaw praises Stromberg and Garcia for their willingness and ability to be flexible and work quickly.

Yet as Mummaw acknowledges, Mizner 200 is a large, complicated project. A change in one area affects other areas. “They have to put everything through the rinse cycle with their team,” Mummaw said, in preparing a modified development application for the city to review.

Obviously, the goal is a new application that everyone can endorse. The application would have to be ready no later than today, and that would be pushing it. The city will post the agenda Wednesday afternoon.

Royal Palm Place: Phase 2

Mummaw and Associate's rendering of Phase 2 of Royal Palm Place.

Mummaw and Associate’s rendering of Phase 2 of Royal Palm Place.

Coincidentally, on Thursday Mummaw and Investments Limited will present their plan for Phase 2 of Royal Palm Place to The Mellgren Planning Group. Mellgren is the consultant that found Mizner 200 in compliance with the downtown ordinance, after first finding the project not in compliance.

As I reported, Royal Palm Place Phase 2 is a major project, like Mizner 200. Its two key components are on the west side, facing Federal Highway, and in the northeast corner. That second component includes new residential development and would be across Mizner Boulevard from Mizner 200.

Delray to—again—attempt to put it’s downtown parking plans in drive

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Downtown Delray at night. Photo provided by the Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority.

The Delray Beach City Commission will try for the third time tonight on a downtown parking plan.

This presentation comes from the Downtown Development Authority, which notes that the DDA represents 1,000 business owners. The group favors a far less ambitious approach than some commissioners, calling it “start slow and grow.”

Rather than install smart meters at all 2,600 downtown spaces, the DDA wants meters at just 245 spaces on and near East Atlantic Avenue. The DDA wants free parking to remain on Atlantic west of the Intracoastal Waterway until noon, with a rate of $1 per hour until 5 p.m. and $1.75 per hour after that. The limit would be two hours until 5 p.m. and three to four hours after that.

East of the bridge, the rate would be $1.50 per hour—beginning at 9 a.m.—with a two-hour limit. On Northeast Second Avenue, the rate would be $1 per hour—starting at noon—with the limit ranging from two hours to three hours. On A1A, the DDA proposes a rate of $1.75 per hour with a four-hour maximum.

The DDA also proposes a flat rate of $5 for all city garages. After that, however, the group’s push is for free parking with longer limits. The DDA also wants the city to add spaces and create “a parking program that is consistent with and enhances the Delray Beach brand, a plan that provides a welcoming environment and supports the downtown small businesses.”

In addition, the DDA proposes a plan under which business owners could pay $150 per year or $20 per month for employee parking. The DDA says this aspect of the program is modeled after one in Sarasota. There also should be “incentives”—unspecified—for employees to commute using something besides their cars. City residents could pay $95 annually to park anywhere downtown.

The DDA helpfully suggests that the city commission can “Make Parking Fun!” So far, however, the process has been more like excruciating. The DDA wants the commission to ignore the city’s consultant, who recommends meters for all spaces and demand pricing. The DDA wants the commission to delay any decision until the DDA’s own studies are done.

The fun continues tonight.

Rundown of Boca P&Z’s Thursday agenda items

marijuana smoking

It’s an especially crowded, varied agenda for Thursday’s meeting of the Boca Raton Planning and Zoning Board. The highlights, in no particular order:

  • Boca Raton wants no marijuana dispensaries in the city. The council previously approved annual moratoriums while the Legislature debated how to implement medical marijuana in the state.

In 2014, the Legislature allowed use of non-euphoric marijuana to treat certain medical conditions. Last year, voters approved a constitutional amendment that expands the use of medical marijuana, though the Legislature has ruled that patients can’t smoke it.

Now Boca Raton wants to tell patients that they can’t get it within the city limits. If the city doesn’t specifically exclude them, dispensing centers could be at any licensed pharmacy. The ordinance would prohibit any person or entity from “acquiring, cultivating, possessing, processing, transferring, transporting, selling, distributing, dispensing or administering” marijuana or marijuana-related products.

Under the staff’s proposed schedule, the ordinance would go to the city council for introduction on Sept. 12. Two public hearings would follow on Sept. 26 and Oct. 11. Since 71 percent of voters approved the amendment, it will be interesting to see if the ordinance draws opposition.

  • Boca Helping Hands wants to convert a warehouse in the city’s industrial district south of 20th Street into a counseling center. The group has a wonderful record, but staff recommends against this change, calling it incompatible with land use in that area.

The group’s attorney counters in a letter to the city with Boca Helping Hands’ history of helping women, many of them victims of domestic abuse, and their children. As with the marijuana issue, this debate could be interesting.

  • As I had reported, the developer of the Ocean Palm condo on the southwest corner of A1A and Palmetto Park Road is before the board asking to add a floor to the six-story condo the council approved last spring. The number of units would stay at 70.

At 65 feet, staff noted in reviewing the initial application, Ocean Palm would be no taller than The Meridian condo. It’s on the northwest corner of the intersection, and drew lots of opposition from neighbors. Ocean Palm, whose developer spent considerable time with the neighbors and got their blessing for the shorter project, would be 10 feet taller than The Meridian.

  • A developer wants to put a 20-unit apartment and three single-family homes on nearly two acres at Yamato Road and Northwest Third Avenue. Though this item twice has been postponed after going on the agenda, the board took public comment.

Every speaker from the neighborhood opposed the change, saying that the apartments—Yamato Villas—would bring more traffic and drive down property values. According to the staff memo, the developer asked for the postponements “to meet with the public.” Despite that local opposition, the staff recommends approval.

October closing on Ocean Breeze unlikely

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I wrote last week that the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District would like to close in October on its $24 million purchase of the former Ocean Breeze golf course. I sought comment from the city council, which would have to underwrite bonds for that purchase and the cost of improving the course for play.

Mayor Susan Haynie and council members Jeremy Rodgers and Robert Weinroth expressed varying degrees of skepticism, since the district hasn’t answered the city’s many questions about the deal. Chairman Bob Rollins proposed that the district board provide those answers for a September meeting with the council.

Councilman Scott Singer now has relayed his comment: “I don’t see how an October closing and bond agreement are feasible if the answers to the outstanding questions will not come until September.”

Correction

Due to an error on the Boca Raton Airport Authority’s website, I referred to authority board member Gene Folden as the chairman. The chairman is Mitch Fogel. The facts have been corrected in this post.


Missed the last City Watch? Visit our Community/City Watch page, and subscribe to the magazine for more City Watch columns in every issue. You can also sign up for our City Watch e-newsletter, where you’ll get the latest column delivered directly to your inbox. 

City Watch e-newsletter subscription

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Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
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Council, District at Odds on Ocean Breeze; A Taller Ocean Palm

Ocean Breeze hits a snag

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The Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District would like to close on its purchase of the former Ocean Breeze golf course in October. Based on my conversations with city council members, that doesn’t seem likely.

Why? The district still hasn’t given city staff materials that the city council requested. Lennar wants $24 million for the roughly 200 acres of Ocean Breeze, which includes a site zoned for a hotel. That parcel is not subject to the covenant that restricts use of the course property to golf.

Rollins, though, wants the city council and district board to hold a joint meeting in September. At that meeting, Rollins told me this week, “We will answer all the city’s questions.”

The city has a lot of them. Ten days ago, Mayor Susan Haynie asked City Manager Leif Ahnell for a summary of the council’s questions after the May 8 meeting of the council and district. Art Koski, the district’s executive director, had made an emotional but vague argument that the city underwrite bonds for the district’s purchase of Ocean Breeze. The district doesn’t have the cash, so the city would issue the bonds and make the annual payments, for which the district would reimburse the city.

As Ahnell summarized them, those questions are:

  • What are the “details of the requested bond financing?” In addition to bonds for the course, the city wants to know details of what Koski said would be a second request for “facility redevelopment.” The course would need a lot of work.

Among other things, the city wants to know how much of the bonds would be non-taxable and which would be taxable. That would affect the rate. To issue the bonds, the city would have to craft an agreement between the city and the district. Ahnell said the district “has not finalized details of its proposed transaction(s) to enable staff to proceed with drafting of interlocal agreement in detail.”

  • What would be the schedule to “purchase, design, reconstruct, and open (the) golf course?” Ahnell noted that the district’s contract with Lennar presumes a closing on Oct. 25, though Koski said “extensions would be possible.” That would seem necessary. Ahnell called it “unlikely” that the city could complete the financing by then.
  • What about a third party in the deal? It could be the operator of a hotel on the commercial site. Ahnell noted that the district presented information at the May 8 meeting that included $300,000 from Ocean Breeze in “hotel ground lease” revenue.

“Whether or not there is private activity is a key consideration in structuring the financing,” Ahnell said, “and the related questions cannot be clearly answered until the details of third-party involvement are finalized. The district is still considering these issues.”

  • What is the appraised value of the golf course? What is the appraised value of the hotel site? Could the hotel parcel be considered separately? Haynie had asked whether the district could separate the hotel parcel and thus lower the purchase price. Ahnell said, “We have not received any further information on this issue.”
  • How much did improvements cost at the county-owned Osprey Point course in West Boca? The city wants to know, Ahnell said, “so we would have a benchmark in looking at the Ocean Breeze redevelopment. We have not received a response to that question from the (district.)”
  • How much might property values rise in Boca Teeca, the largely condo community that Ocean Breeze surrounds, if the course reopened? Added revenue could give the city reason to back the sale. Haynie asked for the information. Ahnell said, “We have not received a response on this issue.”

Ahnell concluded by saying that Koski “has advised me that the district is diligently working … to give the city a complete picture of the proposed plans, transactions, and related matters, but there is not currently a firm timeline.”

I emailed Koski twice and got no response. So I called Rollins. He said the district will have a new appraisal of Ocean Breeze that will “improve upon” the previous ones, all of which valued the course at far less than $24 million.

“Improve upon” means that the appraisal will be higher. How will that happen? Rollins said, “Factors have changed” regarding the “highest and best use of the property. I feel very comfortable.”

Rollins also said the district will present research from the National Golf Foundation on the “financial projections” for a new Ocean Breeze. The foundation, Rollins said, has been gathering information over the last two weeks.

Rollins would like the district board and the council to meet on Sept. 18, an off-week for regular council meetings. He points out that the contract is contingent upon the council agreeing to the financing. Why did the district go ahead with the contract? “Lennar was getting anxious.”

I reached Haynie and two of the four council members. Of that October closing, Weinroth said, “I can’t foresee that happening. That timetable is very ambitious.” Weinroth noted that the council faces other big issues, and he added that city staff still hasn’t crafted an agreement for the three bidders on the city’s western course.

Jeremy Rodgers called the October deadline “extremely aggressive. We’re still waiting on the due diligence. I’m eager to see the proposal, but I can’t comment beyond that.”

Haynie said the district wants a decision “rather quickly for something of this magnitude.” Counting the costs to fix the course, we could be talking almost $40 million. Haynie also stressed the need for information. “I don’t want to waste my time hearing again Art’s impassioned vision for the course.”

The city faces another deadline for its decision on the western course. Three developers have bid $73 million, though the offers vary from there. Assuming that figure is real or even close to real, the council risks with every succeeding month a softer economy and thus a lower price.

The council, though, has resolved to keep golf in Boca Raton even if the city sells the western course. How long can the council wait on the district and Ocean Breeze? “We don’t want to lose what we have in our own hand,” Weinroth said. “I have some concerns about prolonging the sale of the western course,” Haynie said. Rodgers said, “I’m all for moving on the western course.”

Beach and park district board member Craig Ehrnst said the October closing “is possible, but several factors need to come together.” Each agency, he said, may be working on a different schedule.

But there’s more at stake for the city. The two golf course proposals represent a potentially huge return for Boca Raton and also a potentially huge investment, with a fair amount of risk. Would a new Ocean Breeze course be successful enough not to strain the beach and park district, which would strain the city? Three months after the council-district meeting that was supposed to produce all the necessary information, we don’t have any information.

Ocean Palm wants a penthouse

Last April, the Boca Raton City Council approved Ocean Palm as a six-story condo on the southeast corner of AIA and Palmetto Park Road. On the site now are a commercial building and a 20-unit condo.

Residents praised the developer for consulting with the neighbors to create a compatible project. An earlier plan called for a 110-room hotel. Everyone seemed pleased.

Not long afterward, I heard that Ocean Palm might come back with plans for another floor, possibly because more residents of the current condo than expected preferred to move to Ocean Palm Beach rather than elsewhere. Now Ocean Palm has submitted documents that call for six “residential” floors and a “penthouse” floor, still with underground parking. To me, that adds up to seven floors. The documents refer to seven floors, still with 70 units. The project could come before the planning and zoning board next Thursday.

I contacted Ocean Palm’s representative but did not hear back by deadline for this post. Next week’s planning and zoning agenda has not been posted. I will update this item when more information becomes available.

Median update

I had written about the county’s decision to close the median opening into the Palmetto Park Square commercial center on Palmetto Park Road just west of Interstate 95. Some criticism had followed, and the county held up the project, which was to have begun this month.

Mayor Susan Haynie told me this week that she plans to meet with business owners in the center, but it may be a short meeting. Mike Tomasso, who owns Tomasso’s Pizza and Subs on the service road into Palmetto Park Square, told me Wednesday that he hadn’t heard the opposition that he anticipated.

“It doesn’t affect me,” Tomasso said. If anything, it would mean more cars on the service road in front of his fine, venerable restaurant. But he thought that owners inside the center would have disliked the idea of customers losing an easy entrance point from the west.

With the project, the county seeks to lengthen the northbound turn lanes onto 12th Avenue from Palmetto Park Road. At morning rush hour/school openings, traffic can back so far that it holds up drivers who want to go through the intersection. What appeared to be a controversy may not be a controversy after all.

Still waiting on Mizner 200 changes

As of Wednesday, Boca Raton had received no modified development application for Mizner 200. Representatives of Elad Properties and Investments Limited had discussed changes to the design after the city council last month delayed a decision on the 384-unit downtown condo project.

Participants told me that the talks were cordial and productive. Still, the council asked for the item to come back at the Aug. 21 community redevelopment agency meeting. The deadline for that agenda, a city spokeswoman said, is Tuesday. Staff would have time before that to review a modified application. I will have an update on Tuesday.


Missed the last City Watch? Visit our Community/City Watch page, and subscribe to the magazine for more City Watch columns in every issue. You can also sign up for our City Watch e-newsletter, where you’ll get the latest column delivered directly to your inbox. 

City Watch e-newsletter subscription

Subscribe to get City Watch columns with the latest Boca/Delray news sent directly to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday.
Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Jeremy Rogers

Rodgers and Weinroth Are Off and Running Already

And they’re off!

Jeremy Rogers

Jeremy Rogers

It will surprise no one, but Jeremy Rodgers has filed for re-election to the Boca Raton City Council. Read more

Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
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Will Seniors Cost Boca? Modernizing Medicine Expansion, Chabad East Boca Saga Continues

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New development—for the old

Two examples may not make for a trend in Boca Raton, but they could signal a new phase in the type of development projects that come before the city.

At its July 20 meeting, the planning and zoning board unanimously recommended approval of an adult living facility (ALF) on Royal Palm Road. A subsidiary of Penn-Florida would build 193 units, with 63 of those devoted to memory care. The project would displace an apartment building just east of 327 Royal Palm, the luxury condo that is under construction.

Artist's rendering of

Artist’s rendering of 375 Royal Palm, a proposed senior living community on Royal Palm Road.

The developer’s pitch is that the city—especially East Boca—needs such development because the population is aging. Another developer proposes a similar project for property on North Congress Avenue just south of Delray Beach. The planning and zoning board rejected that proposal because of incompatibility with plans for that section of the city. Still another ALF was planned for the downtown site that is now Trader Joe’s.

Land-use attorney Charles Siemon noted that the Royal Palm Road project would net Boca Raton about $275,000 more in property taxes. In their report that recommended approval, however, city planners took the unusual step of noting in boldface type the added cost to the city from ALFs.

Indeed, the report estimates that such projects can require 15 times more emergency medical services calls than regular apartment buildings. Approving an ALF, the report said, essentially would mean approving another rescue unit for the fire department. Each rescue unit costs about $2 million a year. Board member Rick Coffin raised that issue, but staff said the board can’t cite added costs as a reason for denial.

Several issues are coming together. City Manager Leif Ahnell warned during the May goal-setting meetings that even the traditional multi-family projects opening throughout Boca Raton don’t generate the same level of property tax revenue as single-family neighborhoods, though they often demand more services.

Though the Royal Palm Road project didn’t get a favorable vote from the community appearance board, Siemon cited the favorable staff recommendation several times. And only one person—who lives across the street from the site—criticized the plan. Former council member Constance Scott, who lives just to the west, spoke in support, noting that the neighborhood already is residential and the impact from traffic would be light.

That issue of cost, though, remains. Growth may not pay for itself directly, but Boca Raton could have a problem if demand for high-end senior living keeps rising and large, lopsided projects begin to dominate.

City’s response to Chabad East Boca case

Boca Raton has filed the city’s response to the latest legal filing in the Chabad East Boca case. The city’s argument remains coherent and persuasive against the rants of two beachside plaintiffs.

A federal judge twice has dismissed Gerald Gagliardi’s and Kathleen MacDougall’s theory that the city used a “secret directive” and “sinister labels” to conspire with the chabad so the congregation could build a new facility now at 770 East Palmetto Park Road and not in the Golden Triangle across Mizner Boulevard from Mizner Park—where the chabad tried to build nearly a decade ago. This supposed conspiracy, the plaintiffs contend, amounted to unconstitutional help for a Jewish group at the expense of the Christian plaintiffs.

Now Gagliardi and MacDougall want the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to indulge them. The city responds that the plaintiffs have no standing to sue—and that even if they did, their alleged damages are nothing but “conjectural.” Which is true.

As the city’s lawyer states, “This case is a typical zoning dispute that (the plaintiffs) have attempted to transform into constitutional litigation simply by virtue of the fact that the proposed offending development is for religious assembly.”

Gagliardi and MacDougall claim that the chabad would harm the character of their neighborhood and worsen the chance of flooding. These supposed “injuries,” the city says, “would be exactly the same if the city were to have permitted … commercial, office or retail use on the property,” and thus are “tangentially related to the core concerns of the establishment clause, equal protection clause, or the due process clause.”

Aside from the non-existent case, it might seem odd for another reason that Gagliardi and MacDougall press on. A separate, state lawsuit successfully challenged the city’s approval of a museum/exhibit hall as part of the project. The approval that so annoyed Gagliardi and MacDougall was overturned. How can they claim damages from a project that can’t be built?

The only explanation must be that, because the chabad can submit a new plan without the museum, Gagliardi and MacDougal hope to head that off and kill the project once and for all. Parts of the debate in 2015 over the chabad were ugly to the point of being anti-Semitic. Beneath the constitutional veneer of this lawsuit is more ugliness.

One more tidbit on that

It won’t matter for the court, but the city’s brief misspells MacDougall as MacDougal. The city’s previous filings got the name right.

Modernizing Medicine expansion

There is so much to like about Modernizing Medicine.

The electronic health records company, which is based in the Florida Atlantic University Park of Commerce, announced plans last week to add 838 jobs over the next five years, which would increase its workforce by 150 percent. As part of that expansion, Modernizing Medicine will lease 50,000 square feet in the former IBM headquarters. In May, the private equity giant Warburg Pincus invested $231 million in Modernizing Medicine.

Many obvious reasons suggest themselves. Dan Cane, who founded Modernizing Medicine in 2010, had a track record. He started the education software company Blackboard. Record-keeping of all kinds, especially when it comes to health care, is going digital. Walgreen’s years ago created a drug database, allowing customers to fill prescriptions at any store.

But I was curious to know why Modernizing Medicine anticipates this hypergrowth now. What factors are in play? A company spokeswoman gave this response:

“Many of the legacy health IT companies are still using older technology, but with the changes in pay for performance and compensating physicians on value rather than volume, systems that collect data differently are needed. Because Modernizing Medicine is still a relatively new vendor, our software was built from the start to collect structured data, and increasingly people are recognizing the importance of this.

“Our software makes it easy for physicians to accurately document the patient visit, get paid for the work they do and provide information to keep their patients healthier.”

I want to make clear that the next observation is mine alone and isn’t from Modernizing Medicine. Gov. Rick Scott came to Boca Raton for last week’s announcement, and the company—correctly—is receiving incentive money from the state, county and city.

That shift in health care to compensation for outcomes, not just services, had been coming, but the Affordable Care Act accelerated it. Congress passed the law in 2010. A year earlier, as part of the economic stimulus plan, President Barack Obama and Congress allocated billions in subsidies to encourage health care providers to go digital.

The debate about the shift continues. Electronic records can reduce mistakes from miscommunication, but some providers have found the transition costly and clumsy. Still, I tend to agree with the Mayo Clinic’s chief medical information officer, who in 2012 told The New York Times that, despite the challenges, the potential benefits were “enormous.” Electronic records can increase safety and promote better outcomes.

Scott has opposed the Affordable Care Act from the start. So I note the small irony of the governor touting a company whose clearly impressive product is aligned with policies and a president the governor opposed.

Bridge improvements

Driving between the El Rio Canal bridge in Boca Raton to Dixie Highway can feel like riding on a boat in heavy seas. That stretch of Southwest 18th Street rises and falls. Because it’s the site of the city’s old landfill, the ground sinks.

Living nearby, I take this short, ocean-like voyage often. But so do commuters who live farther west. Fortunately, the city is putting money in next year’s budget for reconstruction of the road to level and repave it. Work should begin in October or November, after construction of a water main for irrigation. Boca Raton uses reclaimed water for irrigation of public land.

The city is simultaneously developing the second phase of El Rio Hillsboro Park on the south side of 18th Street. Though a city spokeswoman says the projects are not related, the improvement will be especially helpful when the new park amenities draw more traffic.

Boca’s plans to spend on neighborhood

Also in next year’s budget is money to start sprucing up a neglected Boca Raton neighborhood.

It’s North Dixie Highway beyond Glades Road. Mike Weppner, a Realtor, recently sent a flier to residents of four neighborhoods adjoining Dixie Highway to the east. He wants to stimulate investment along the Dixie corridor that would raise property values. The flier proposed a zoning change that would allow work-live units where there now are mostly duplexes.

The landscaping work will beautify the corridor starting at 20th Street. The city must work out issues with Florida East Coast Industries, which owns the railroad tracks. Another factor regarding redevelopment will be the 32 daily trains from the new Brightline service.

For all the talk of new projects, Boca Raton has many sections that are ripe for development, which would then generate new tax revenue. Dixie Highway also could be a key part of the planned student district linked to Florida Atlantic University. Boca Raton has lots of possibilities the city still hasn’t explored.

Theater by and for kids

Director Marjorie Waldo keeps pumping out news about the new Arts Garage.

Waldo emailed this week to say that the group raised nearly $2,000 in less than two days to sponsor children who attended the group’s arts camp. And today, at 1 p.m. in the Robert and Linda Schmier Black Box Theater, Arts Garage will hold its Musical Theater Workshop, with children performing skits from “Wicked,” “Hamilton” and “Matilda.” Part of the city commission’s charge to Waldo was to have Arts Garage serve more at-risk children.

Even if Arts Garage isn’t ready to again stage professional theater, the organization can start making future patrons enjoy theater.


Missed the last City Watch? Visit our Community/City Watch page, and subscribe to the magazine for more City Watch columns in every issue. You can also sign up for our City Watch e-newsletter, where you’ll get the latest column delivered directly to your inbox. 

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Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Sanborn Square. Photo courtesy of the City of Boca Raton.

Deal Close on Mizner 200, Down With Festivus, and Delray’s Parking Plans

 

Mizner 200

Concept view of the entrance of Mizner 200.

Concept view of the entrance of Mizner 200.

There is near-agreement on changes to Mizner 200. If the agreement holds and a revised submittal arrives soon enough, members of the Boca Raton City Council on Aug. 21 can approve the downtown condo and congratulate themselves for improving the project. Read more

Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Mummaw and Associate's rendering of Phase 2 of Royal Palm Place.

Big Plans for Royal Palm Place, Fatal Blow for Swinton Commons?

Mummaw and Associate's rendering of Phase 2 of Royal Palm Place.

Mummaw and Associates’ rendering of Phase 2 of Royal Palm Place.

Royal Palm Place: big changes ahead

There have been rumors for months about Royal Palm Place’s planned redevelopment. The rumors now are true. Read more

Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
mizner 200

Mizner 200 Marathon, a Higher Fire Fee, and a Coastal Commuter Rail

mizner 200

Mizner 200 meeting gets heated

The tone was set early on Monday when the Boca Raton City Council debated Mizner 200.

After the staff presentation on the condo project, attorney Robert Sweetapple addressed the council. Sweetapple’s record of lawsuits against the city goes back roughly three decades, and he clearly warned of another one if the council rejected the application from Sweetapple’s client, Elad Properties. Read more

Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
mizner 200

Mizner 200 Decision, Boca Raton’s Money Trail and More

mizner 200

Concept view of the entrance of Mizner 200.

No surprises with Mizner 200

There will be nothing much new Monday when the Boca Raton Community Redevelopment Agency—the mayor and city council—considers Mizner 200.

City staff recommends approval, as the staff did before the luxury condo project got favorable votes from the community appearance board and the planning and zoning board. Opposition again will come most strongly from some residents of Townsend Place, to the south along Mizner Boulevard, and possibly from the owners of Royal Palm Place, on the west side of Mizner Boulevard. Read more

Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Spanish River Park. Photo courtesy of the City of Boca Raton.

Boca on the Waterfront, Delray Considers Going After Big Pharma

Spanish River Park. Photo courtesy of the City of Boca Raton.

Spanish River Park is one of 11 parks that would be improved under Boca’s developing waterfront plan. Photo courtesy of the City of Boca Raton.

Waterfront plan

Boca Raton residents can find much in the developing waterfront plan that is reason for excitement.

Last Wednesday, Kona Gray of EDSA, the city’s consultant, presented renderings of improvements to existing parks and two concepts for the Wildflower property. The presentation at the downtown library was the company’s second. The renderings built off comments at an earlier public meeting.

Read more

Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.