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BRiC hits brakes on signs for former IBM Building

by Les Wilson

The original building at the former IBM Boca site on Yamato Rd was designed by renowned architect Marcel Breuer. It is iconic and a recognized architectural landmark. The site is now called the Boca Raton Innovation Campus. It is owned by Crocker Partners. About a year ago, one of the tenants on the site was seeking permission from the City to attach a commercial building sign to the custom concrete panels of the original building (it was extended later). For background on all that, see our March 14 2019 article Putting Commercial Signs on a Renowned Boca Architectural Jewel.


Apparently, the Boca Raton city code did not protect the Breuer designed building from tenants mounting signs. During the debate, local architects strenuously objected to the signage on the former IBM building. They offered creative alternatives to solve the tenant’s complaints of being nestled inside a large complex. To paraphrase the response from the tenant’s representative:

Doing all these things architecturally … this is all wonderful. You guys wanna do all this stuff down the line? You wanna re-write the sign ordinance? HAVE AT IT! At the end of the day, my client is here, we need a sign, we need it now. Your board denied us. The code says we’re allowed to have a sign and that is it.

While seemingly reluctant to go against the city’s Community Appearance Board (CAB), Mayor Singer conceded “It’s the code” and voted to override the CAB. So did Thomson, Rodgers and Mayotte. But in defense of the greater good of the community, Council Member O’Rourke spoke passionately against approving the sign. After the disappointing 4-1 vote that allowed the sign, O’Rourke reached out to voters and community leaders to add more voices to protect the architectural jewel. It appears to have succeeded. Read on.

Put Another Sign on the Barbie

Imagine savvy advertising executives scoring a loophole in Sydney’s sign code that permitted internal shops and businesses to get access to your eyeballs via the famous sails of the Opera House? Or lawyers in Livorno Italy using the discovery of an 1820 bronze cast doorpost bearing the architect of Tower of Pisa’s name as precedent that signs were once permitted and must now also be permitted? Boca has one of the most restrictive signage codes in the area. How could this happen to one of its famous and renowned architectural landmarks?

Dominics Pizza
Not to worry, the meat toppings are lean.

There is no commercial sign on the building

I went to the former IBM building to see for myself. Nothing seems to have happened regarding the tenant sign. The site is immaculate. Building entrances are clearly marked with pleasant uniform blue signs denoting the address and business name. I reached out to Council Member O’Rourke and learned that in the past year, Crocker Partners has developed plans for the complex to address a number of areas and that they are investing in a master plan to revitalize the campus and the region. Furthermore, they are working to establish a program that hopes to foster local and world class artwork to be displayed in the buildings.

entrance to business at BRIC
Entrance to a business at BRIC

Credit where credit is due

Kudos to both O’Rourke and Crocker Partners. A longer view has prevailed and its good news. As far as we know, the effort to mount a sign on the famous former IBM building has hit the brakes. Beyond the signage issue, Crocker Partners has a huge long term vision for the site. According to them:

“Crocker Partners has plans to build on the legacy created by IBM by returning this historic, iconic property into a place where creativity and innovation happen. Once we complete the planned $100 million of capital improvements, BRiC will become a vibrant Class-A office complex and the tech and life sciences hub for the Southeastern United States.  It will consist of unparalleled tenant amenities on the scale of the Google campus, structured parking, and substantial investments into new tenant high-tech spaces. Remembering and celebrating our past is important to us.  One of our two planned coffee shops is going to be named Marcel Brewer’s, a play on the name of Marcel Breuer, the father of Brutalist architecture and the designer of the campus. We will also be creating a History of Tech museum centered around artifacts and technology donated by local IBM alumni.”

Crocker Partners

How refreshing. BocaFirst.org will continue to report on this issue.

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