Home Content CategoryBoca Viewpoint We’ve Been Played

We’ve Been Played

by Alan Neibauer

We’ve been saying all along that the proposed Aletto Square project is way too big. Because it needs special deviations and accommodations to be forced-fit into its space. Because it needs the City to overlook deficiencies and ignore realities. Because it needs the City to accept inconsistencies and tortured logic. And because it’s over development above the limit set by the City.

We now have more proof of that. And we have proof that regardless of what the City says about limiting construction, if they allow Aletto to be built they are breaking the public’s trust.

Landowners shouldn’t have the right to overdevelop property beyond the CAP

The city set a cap on the amount of construction in a downtown district called the CRA district. See the map below. They then divided the district into 7 subareas. Each subarea was allotted so many square feet for construction in various categories, such as office and retail. So each subarea has its own cap. Having that cap gives a comforting feeling that the City set limits on construction. Hooray.

The seven subareas of Downtown

However, the rules for the allotment allow transfers of square feet from one area to another. Taking square feet from one area allows more development in another area. But just because the rules allow transfers, doesn’t make it a “right.” The rules say transfers should be approved if the developer can justify its impact.

The Office Equivalent Square Foot Flim-Flam is Overdevelopment Plain and Simple

If you thought the square foot development cap was measured in real square feet, you would be wrong. It is actually measured in a tortured and arcane scheme called “office equivalent square feet” created by a consultant hired from Chicago. The scheme is loosely designed to control the amount of traffic from various types of building uses. And managing traffic and congestion are extremely important in a downtown area. Don’t worry if it sounds confusing. It is. It is also unique to Boca Raton. No other City in the world uses it. You can learn more about this unique Boca math see our article Will Boca Blow Its Cap?

Boca's severed spine as seen looking South from the South end of Mizner Park.
Boca’s severed spine as seen looking South from the South end of Mizner Park. Graphic by Les Wilson.

The Monster at Sanborn Squareb

This is where the “Monster at Sanborn Square,” known as Aletto Square, comes in. Bear in mind that even though we are talking specifically about one proposed project, the same situation can occur anywhere in the CRA district.

Look at the chart below from the CRA Annual Report for subarea B, where Aletto would be located. As of the end of 2021, there was just 113,000 “office equivalency square feet” of development remaining in its allotment. That is plenty of area for low rise retail or affordable housing.

The proposed Aletto Square requires 204,000 square feet; almost twice what is available to stay within the cap. It’s too big. In order to build it, square feet must be transferred from another area. And, if the transfer is approved, it will blow the subarea cap and generate roughly twice the traffic than what the allotment would allow. In its proposed configuration of retail, office space etc, Aletto will generate six times the current traffic in the area.

The distribution of allowed development in the seven subareas.

Aletto is twice the size than is allowed

Rather than honor the development limits set by the cap, the Aletto landowner is asking the City to transfer additional development space in order to force-fit Aletto Square into a small 1.3 acre lot. Specifically, the landowner wants to rob ummm I mean transfer office equivalent square feet from subarea A (next to the Brightline station) to its 1.3 acre lot on Palmetto Park Rd in subarea B; The heck with traffic and congestion.

At Aletto Square’s proposed size, it needs over HALF of its “Office Equivalent” square footage to be transferred from subarea A. That is 3/4 of its retail space, and almost 1/2 of its office space. In total, 110,882 office equivalent square feet would be stolen transferred from somewhere else in the city to make Aletto “fit”. Mind you, there is no actual additional space being added for the additional size and nothing changed in the city to mitigate the additional intensity. Allowing this transfer is moving twice the traffic and intensity than was allocated to the Sanborn Square area by the CRA allotment. Subarea A needs its allocation to provide the downtown with the balanced density and intensity architected by ordinance 4035 which regulates development.

If The Shoes Don’t Fit

Alletto Square is the definition of “over-development.” It is development over the limit, the cap, allowed by the rules of the City. Precedent be damned. The square foot limits were first come, first served. And now that the downtown development is nearing completion, now is when the most care must be taken by elected officials to prevent disaster.

Allowing Aletto’s over-development would be breaking the public’s trust in the City. The City that sold Ordinance 4035 on the belief it would limit development. The city where loopholes and amendments let buildings grow and concrete flow.

What happens when you put your feet in shoes two sizes too small? Pain. That’s what Aletto will cause throughout downtown. Pain. Register your voice against Aletto’s “transfer flim-flam” by signing the Stop Aletto Petition.

Related Posts