Boca Raton: New design, more excitement in works for Mizner Park arts center

Boca Raton: New design, more excitement in works for Mizner Park arts center
By Mary HladkyThe Center for Arts and Innovation and its architectural firm, the renowned Renzo Piano Building Workshop, have unveiled their new design for the performing arts center that will be built in Mizner Park.

Instead of rebuilding the amphitheater and constructing a new theater building, the design combines them into a three-story main venue with an outdoor piazza. Underground parking will replace a parking garage.

The design echoes the one proposed in 2020 when center chair and CEO Andrea Virgin was seeking the city’s support for a project that she said would transform the downtown and raise Boca Raton’s status as a cultural destination.

While the overall concept for the center remains unchanged, RPBW, whose partners include Pritzker Architecture Prize-winner Renzo Piano, has infused its own vision.

A work in progress
The design, though, is still a work in progress.

“We are in the very early stages of the project,” RPBW architect and partner Antoine Chaaya said at the April 19 unveiling at the Boca Raton Museum of Art.
The center’s and RPBW’s ambitions are unbounded.

“The Center for Arts and Innovation will pioneer a new approach to how the world imagines, designs, utilizes and embraces its cultural infrastructure,” Virgin said.

“All this is our aspirations, our excitement,” said Joshua Dachs, principal-in-charge of New York City-based Fisher Dachs Associates, the project’s theater and spatial planner. “We are going to have a space that is so large and so special we will be able to do extraordinary work.”

The new plans leave unchanged the intention to build a center that has the flexibility to accommodate many types and sizes of events, with a partial list including concerts, stage productions, conferences, banquets and weddings, product launches, antique fairs, farmers’ markets and festivals.

“We are building it for wherever the imagination wants to go,” Virgin said.

Shaping a public square
The piazza can be used for performances and special events, filling the role that the aging 3,500-seat amphitheater has long played. As was the case in the original plan, it can be covered with a translucent material that lets in the light but protects from the rain.

The main venue’s third floor will have a rooftop terrace with food and beverage service. Hybrid photovoltaic solar collectors on the roof will produce electricity and hot water.

An entirely new element will be a 100-person capacity elevated structure called the Belvedere, which will have 360-degree views of the city and ocean. It can be used for special events or meetings but also will be available to the public to take in the sights.

On the same day as the unveiling, a retrospective exhibition titled “Renzo Piano and RPBW: Le Fil Rouge of Contemporary Architecture” opened at the art museum. It will be on view through May 19.

The cost of the project, funded through donations, is not clear. Financial documents released last year pegged it at about $140 million, but that number was based in part on data that will be updated.

Completion expected in 2029
If donations meet expectations, Virgin still wants to break ground in 2025 to coincide with Boca Raton’s centennial. That date might slide to early 2026, she said, with completion in 2029. Construction is expected to take three years.

Virgin has met with City Council members individually to show them the new design and get their feedback. She plans to make a formal presentation to the council in the near future.

The city is not providing project funding. But the City Council in 2022 authorized the lease for $1 a year of city-owned land in Mizner Park to the center for 74 years, with two 10-year renewals.

The Center for Arts and Innovation announced that RPBW, with offices in Paris and Genoa, Italy, had been selected to design the project last September.

The fact that such a prestigious firm, which accepts only two or three commissions worldwide a year, wanted to be part of the project is considered a major coup, both for the center and for the city.

Its long list of projects includes the Shard in London, the new Whitney Museum in New York, the Kansai International Airport terminal building in Osaka, Japan, and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

Two highly regarded local architects who attended the unveiling, Juan Caycedo of Boca Raton and Jorge Garcia of West Palm Beach, gave the new design rave reviews.
“It is a renaissance for the city — a game changer,” Caycedo said. “We have been waiting for the ‘wow.’ This is it.”