After 5 years and much hand-wringing, Boca’s Mizner Park will transform into performing arts center

After 5 years and much hand-wringing, Boca’s Mizner Park will transform into performing arts center

The center is estimated to generate an annual $342.5 million for the city by it’s fifth year in operation.

BOCA RATON — A vote five years in the making passed on Oct. 12, when the Boca Raton City Council approved a plan to revamp the city’s Mizner Park Amphitheater, transforming it into a multistage performing arts and events center.

The council initially was set to vote on Aug. 22, but the vote was postponed — first, because of the wording of a damages clause in the contract and concerns over the cost of construction and the project’s timeline; and then delayed by Hurricane Ian.

Nearly two months later, all three issues were addressed: Language allowing both parties to feel comfortable around the issue of damages was presented to the council, updated numbers were provided by the construction firm and the project’s timeline was shortened by 30 months.

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Plan to convert Mizner Amphitheater into performing arts center approved 10/27/22, 1:14 PM

“Last week’s vote represented a threshold moment in establishing a new hub for arts and innovation in Boca,” CEO and Board Chair of the Boca Raton Center for Arts and Innovation Andrea Virgin said. “With the clear support of our elected officials and the community they represent, we look forward to collaborating with the city to realize our vision.”

How will Boca’s new performing arts center look?

The vision, though still in its early days in terms of design, includes a main theater with a capacity of 1,100, a reimagined amphitheater that will serve around 3,500 attendees, more intimate performance and event spaces, flex space for the center’s educational and tech- forward programming, office space and a parking garage.

In total, there will be six venues, including a 250-person rooftop terrace and counting the proposition to have the ability to close the amphitheater and allow climate-controlled experiences on the stage itself.

Currently, the amphitheater only supports outdoor events. Redesigned, it would be able to host indoor music, business and theater events. Some of the center’s renderings are available on its website, bocaratonartscenter.org, where visitors can get a sense of the scale and components of plans.

What has been laid out in conceptual renderings will certainly evolve, Virgin said.

Virgin, who grew up in Boca Raton, has not seen many changes to Mizner Park since then.

“There is some good and bad to this,” she said. “Updating with the times is critical — what we wanted 20 or 30 years ago has changed. What matters now is being able to see a performance, meet with friends, discuss ideas or share a creative space with a diverse group of people. That’s what we’re offering.”

She also envisions the center as the type of civic amenity that will lure professionals and companies to the city, and encourage graduates of the area’s major colleges and universities to remain and start their careers there post-graduation. The future-oriented space, in Virgin’s eyes, will catalyze the area by driving increased foot traffic to local retailers and accommodations, and capitalizing on the new Brightline station.

Plan to convert Mizner Amphitheater into performing arts center approved 10/27/22, 1:14 PM

How much revenue will the new performing arts center generate?

By its fifth year in operation, the center is estimated to be generating an annual $342.5 million for the area, culminating in $10.3 billion over a 30-year period, board member and co-chair of the center’s Tech and Innovation Committee Matt Cimaglia said.

“This accounts for increased foot traffic to local restaurants, businesses and hotels, as well as local businesses that form part of the supply chain for the day-to-day operations of the campus,” he said.

The center also is expected to generate revenue through its varied range of potential uses to arts organizations and other event presenters.

“We anticipate the center being used for more than just artistic and cultural performances,” Cimaglia said. “It could house festivals, product launches, demonstrations and trade shows. The center will collect ticket and rental revenue from these events.”

How much will the new performing arts center cost?

With construction costs rising, the unknown figure served as another major roadblock preventing the city from authorizing the 94-year lease.

The most recent cost estimate provided by Moss Construction is around $115 million, Virgin said. But that number is in today’s dollars and is based on an initial conceptual plan, meaning it is bound to change.

The project chiefly will be funded by private philanthropists. So far, the center has raised approximately $14 million — a figure expected to grow, now that the city has officially committed.

And with the ground lease in place, the center’s board is working on finalizing the planning and design of the project, as well as securing the capital necessary to construct the center campus, Virgin said. Though the project’s overall timeline will be determined in Plan to convert Mizner Amphitheater into performing arts center approved 10/27/22, 1:14 PM

concert with the capital campaign, the goal is to try to break ground in 2025 — the same year as Boca Raton’s 100th anniversary.

The council voted 4-1, with Mayor Scott Singer voting against the agreement.

“I still have discomfort with some of the construction numbers,” he said, voting ‘no’ on that basis alone. “That in no way reflects my lack of enthusiasm, great enthusiasm, for this project.”

When Singer met Virgin three and a half years ago, he’d said the same: He’d prefer if the center raised more money first, and then reconvened with city council members. Upon approval of the vote, though, Singer said the city and the center would be aligned, 100%.

For Cimaglia, who grew up in Boca Raton, the center rekindles the spirit of innovation that characterized Boca Raton’s relationship with IBM, as far back as the late 1960s.

“The city and the company made a shared commitment, in the form of nearly 2 million square feet, that ultimately delivered the personal computer,” he said. “In partnership with the city, we are planting a similar stake in the ground in Mizner Park. We see Miami fully embracing entrepreneurs in tech and finance, capitalizing on population inflows that have accelerated in recent years, and we can’t afford to be left behind.”