Boca Aims To Increase the City’s Appeal to Corporations

Boca Aims To Increase the City’s Appeal to Corporations

If one project can symbolize Boca Raton’s attempt to attract more corporate tenants, it’s Mutual of America’s plan for a large, new building in the Park at Broken Sound.

The New York-based life insurance company already has a regional office in the park. Mutual wants to tear down its existing office, nearly triple the size of its space and bring another 200 employees from Manhattan. That would bring the total in Boca Raton to 400, or rouighly one-third of the company’s workforce.

The 700-acre park, formerly the Arvida Park of Commerce, was groundbreaking when it opened in 1978. Under the wonderful acronym of LIRP—Light Industrial Research Park—it created the employment cluster at the core of Boca Raton’s enviable commercial tax base.
In recent years, however, property owners complained that the park’s development rules had become outdated. They sought changes to allow larger and more varied projects. The city has obliged, as the city did for the owner of the nearby Boca Raton Innovation Campus, where IBM invented the personal computer. Mayor Scott Singer especially has urged quick action on these changes, to make Boca Raton more attractive to corporate recruiters. West Palm Beach has drawn most of the moves by companies from New York during and since the pandemic.

City Councilman Mark Wigder called the Mutual project “a catalyst” for the park and city. In addition to space for those new employees, Mutual would lease some offices to outside tenants. In its narrative to the city, Mutual says the project would “facilitate new jobs added to the local economy.”

More employees and tenants, of course, would mean more traffic at one of the city’s busiest rush-hour chokepoints—Yamato Road just west of Interstate 95. Mutual is seeking a “variation” from city engineering standards that recommend 45 minutes to clear traffic at each end of the workday.

Instead, Mutual wants times of between 70 and 75 minutes. The six-story garage that will replace surface spaces, Mutual says, will allow “a more efficient allocation of land.” In addition, Mutual says, hybrid work schedules would mean that the garage is rarely full. No nearby buildings, the company claims, would have any problems.

The project is still going through staff review. No hearings have been set.

Boca Raton has recertified the first building under the safety program passed after the 2021 Surfside condo collapse.
It’s the Admirals Walk condo on North Ocean Boulevard. The city’s ordinance applied to buildings that are at least 30 years old and four stories tall or that have at least 5,000 square feet and can hold 500 people.

That standard applied to 242 buildings. The Legislature then required local governments to include buildings at least three stories tall, which brought the total to 352.

Boca Raton has placed them in four zones, from the ocean going west.
Buildings must undergo structural and electrical inspections. Residents must pay for any recommended improvements. In the worst case, cities can condemn buildings for failing to comply with the new standards.

According to a city spokeswoman, recertification for Admirals Walk took about a year. City staff is “waiting on reports” from most of the other buildings in Zone 1.

With insurance costs tripling in some cases, elected officials in Florida have heard complaints about the cost of this added regulation. Boca Raton, the spokeswoman
said, hasn’t received any such complaints for now.

More details on Mizner arts center

I wrote recently that the group seeking to build a performing arts center in Mizner Park had met its first fundraising goal. Last week, The Center for Arts & Innovation Center (TCAI) CEO Andrea Virgin added some details.

During her presentation before the city council, Virgin said the group hopes to submit its development application no later than April 2025. The goal then would be to break ground late that year, with the project opening no later than 2029.
Next October, TCAI would have to meet its second fundraising goal—50 percent of construction costs. The project is to include a new venue on land leased from the city and a redesigned amphitheater on the adjacent property.

Council members required those goals to avert the prospect of the city having to take over the facility, as happened with the amphitheater. They asked Virgin whether TCAI has contemplated building the center in stages, depending on donations. Virgin said the group could “potentially phase” the project or start “with the ability to do part of it.”

Menin Development sells housing complex property

Delray Beach-based Menin Development has sold a property on Linton Boulevard where the company had received approval to add a housing complex.

The Real Deal was first to report the sale of Linton Commons—three commercial buildings just west of Dixie Highway—to Sarasota-based Benderson Development.

Benderson reportedly paid $28 million for the 11.68-acre site. In 2016, Menin bought it for $33 million.

In January 2021, the city commission unanimously approved Menin’s plan to build 277 rental units—20 percent of them workforce housing—and turn Linton Commons into a mixed-use development. It’s unclear whether Benderson will follow through. The company’s website shows about two dozen projects in Florida and many more across roughly 40 states, but none of the project categories are residential.

Future uncertain for The Flo Delray

Though the Delray Beach City Commission on Tuesday approved the voluntary annexation that would allow construction of The Flo Delray apartment complex on Atlantic Avenue, the project isn’t a certainty.
Development Services Director Anthea Gianniotes said the developer faces “challenges” with providing access to the landlocked, roughly five-acre site west of Military Trail. She noted that the property is behind a shopping center and that the city has prioritized accessibility not just for drivers but also for pedestrians and cyclists.

Gianniotes said the developer must address those challenges in the project’s site plan. There will be a separate review and approval process for the plan. The vote Tuesday was 4-1, with Mayor Shelly Petrolia dissenting.

Brightline meets train service goal

Brightline announced this week that the company is running 32 trains each day between Miami and the recently opened station in Orlando. That’s the maximum that Brightline promised when service began, and a company spokeswoman confirmed that 32 is “the total.”