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The State of Play in East Boca

by John Gore

It’s been a while since the last “Downtown” Boca development skirmish, so it seems an opportune time to step back and take stock.

The March 17th City Council elections are turning out to be a non- event.  That is because, unlike in the previous decade, the City Council is doing a good job balancing the interests of developers and concerned citizens.  Council Members O’Rourke and Thomson are running unopposed and Mayor Singer is expected to win reelection handily.  

Boca Development In General

The building frenzy seems to have run up against economic reality.  We are in boom times, but there still don’t seem to be enough buyers for all those million dollar + condos under construction.  The Via Mizner – Mandarin Hotel project ran short of funds, but construction has resumed following refinancing by Penn Florida.  Tower 155 is nearing completion, has sold well, but looks like surpassing The Mark as the ugliest building in downtown.  The behemoth on the postage stamp lot barely has room for decorative palm trees.  No doubt the couple of hundred owners get lovely apartments and views (until something of equal size rises next door), but the rest of us are stuck looking at an undistinguished, oversized concrete block forever.

The nearby Alina, by contrast, is a pleasant surprise.  The building is set back nicely off SE Mizner Boulevard and the angular design gives a sense of light and space.   In this respect it complements neighboring Townsend Place.  The big question surrounding the Alina development is, given the current soft housing market (only 6% of phase I units sold), what happens to the rest of the property?  Promises have been made to remove and replace the rest of the decrepit Mizner on the Green buildings, but will they be kept?

Royal Palm Plaza

The Batmasian Empire is proceeding with caution as far as development is concerned.  Their incredibly ambitious plans for Royal Palm Plaza redevelopment are on hold, while they try to move forward with an extended stay hotel project on the block between SE Second and Third Streets.  Perhaps the 4th Generation Organic Market will be replaced by organic hotel rooms.

The traffic and parking are worse, but with no quick solutions in sight, we seem to be accommodating.  Nor has there been much progress on the mass transit front, although a Boca Raton station for Brightline (soon to be Virgin Trains) is in the works.  And the silent crossings have been a great success, including (sadly) for those who have chosen Brightline as the preferred way of ending it all.  

The bottom line:  after all the furor, East Boca continues to be a pretty nice place to live and work.  The balance of power on the City Council  offers hope that it will remain so.  The battle for Boca was (and is) worth it.

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