An open letter to Boca Raton's City Council

Last August, after a lengthy battle, the developer of the mammoth Mizner 200 project in downtown Boca, agreed to significant design concessions. Major sight lines were included, as was a green space border between the building (now called The Monarch) and its southernmost neighbor Townsend Place. There were also significant steps to make the enormous building more “Mizneresque.”

As a result of these concessions, Elad’s major opponents BocaBeautiful.org, Townsend Place and Investments Limited urged the CRA to approve the project. This the CRA did by a vote of 5-0.

ELAD’S CONCESSIONS WERE KEY TO THE OUTCOME OF THIS VOTE. WITHOUT THEM, THE PROJECT MOST LIKELY WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN APPROVED.

A rendering of the planned luxury condominium complex at at 200 Southeast Mizner Boulevard, formerly known as Mizner 200 but re-branded The Monarch Boca Raton. Demolition began to make way for the project in January.  (© Palm Beach Post)

A rendering of the planned luxury condominium complex at at 200 Southeast Mizner Boulevard, formerly known as Mizner 200 but re-branded The Monarch Boca Raton. Demolition began to make way for the project in January. (© Palm Beach Post)

Now we learn that Elad is coming to City staff and eventually to you, asking for important changes to the deal. First, they want an amendment to Ordinance 4035 governing how the height of a building is measured. The purpose of this amendment is simple: it would allow them to increase the total square footage of the already massive structure. What happened to all those promises that the building was fully compatible with the metric requirements of 4035?  Maybe it was, but now Elad wants those requirements changed.

More importantly, Mizner 200 (now The Monarch) was presented approved as a single building.  All of the design elements and amenities such as open space, were geared to that compromise single building design. Now Elad is asking City staff and eventually you for permission to build the building in “stages,” i.e. to build a stand-alone building (the “North Tower”) first and the rest of the structure at a later date—if ever. What they are really asking for is permission to build a stand-alone building which looks remarkably like the unremarkable Mark, see how it sells, and then decide what to do with the rest of the property later.

IF THEY WANT TO BUILD TODAY’S VERSION OF THE MARK, THEY SHOULD HAVE ASKED TO DO SO BACK IN AUGUST. THIS IS NOT WHAT THE CRA APPROVED.

IF THEY WANT TO BUILD A TOTALLY DIFFERENT PROJECT, THEY SHOULD START THE APPROVAL PROCESS—AND NEGOTIATIONS WITH THEIR NEIGHBORS—ANEW.

Elad is not demonstrating good faith. They are changing much more than just the name of the building. They are not keeping their promises to their neighbors or to the CRA. 

We urge you to reject their appeals for changes to their August agreement.  Build what we agreed to and the CRA approved or reapply. Your decision on this will be a clear indication whether politics in Boca have indeed changed for the better.

The Board of Directors
BocaBeautiful.org

A Letter to the Mayor of Boca Raton

Dear Mayor Haynie and Boca City Council Members,

As a veteran of 45 years in the government relations business, I enjoyed watching you all in action as you debated the 2-acre "housekeeping" resolution yesterday and this evening.  I recognize a done deal when I see one.  But I got the impression that, technicalities aside, you might not have been listening to what your unusually large audience was trying to tell you.  There was an elephant in the room.

As a result of construction approvals made over the last 5+ years, including now Tower 155, there is a groundswell building against unfettered high rise development in Boca.  This is a direct result, not of some influx of anti-development conservationist zealots, but of the practical effect of what we as residents in the "downtown" area see each day.  The  buildings which have been approved as exceptions to the old height limitations are not exceptional.  The Mark looks like a prison.  I don't know what the Archstone project will look like in the end, but at over three football fields in length, I am not optimistic.  The 14-story pile going up at the corner of Camino and Federal will block out the sun on the 7th and 8th holes of the Resort Golf course as well as for the residents of those $6+ million homes in Mizner Estates (too bad for them).  We will wait and see just how aesthetically pleasing Tower 155 is-- but it is a very big building crammed on a very small lot abutting a very small side street.  I hope it is magnificent, I really do.

But Boca's recent construction track record does not afford much cause for optimism.  This is why a rapidly growing number of residents are concerned and disappointed.  Just the concept of the New Mizner on the Green Project has set off alarm bells.  Too often we have seen developers propose 40-story buildings only to "accept" a 25-story result.  And we have seen such faux compromises touted as a reduction in density.

What you heard yesterday and tonight in your Council chambers was "enough is enough."  I would expect that rallying cry will become louder and more persistent in coming months, as concerned citizens get more organized and involved.  I expect that there will be political consequences unless our elected leaders put a brake on future high rise development in the downtown.  What's done is done.  Let's take a deep breath and assess the damage (or benefits) once this latest construction binge has run its course.

But from this point forward, there will be a significant and growing number of people watching development decisions with a very critical eye.  I expect they will be well organized and well funded.

Enough is enough.  I hope you got the message.  I did.

John C. Gore
—Boca Raton

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