I have followed with interest the planned development around the Mizner on the Green site in Boca Raton, where the owner, El Ad National Properties, has proposed to replace this outdated 244-unit project and reportedly seek discretionary height increases.  The operative word is “discretionary.”
    As a retired developer, architect, banker and community activist, as well as a neighbor, I have a few thoughts to share.
Foremost, replacement of the existing buildings with others up to 100 feet — or about three times existing heights — and with over twice as many units, is already permitted by zoning. This is the standard enabled by the same 1992 zoning ordinance that permitted the nearby nine-story Townsend Place, Palmetto Place and 200 East condominiums. These comprise 560-plus units on less acreage than the 9-acre El Ad site.
    Revisions in 2008 to the old ordinance allowed greater building heights nearby, but this does not apply to the east side of Southeast Mizner Boulevard. Under current zoning, El Ad is limited to the 100-foot height in the 1992 code.
    Exceeding the ceiling that applied to the neighboring Townsend Place and 200 East properties would require, first, changing the city’s comprehensive plan to incorporate the El Ad site into the “downtown quality project sites,” and second, complying with the qualitative aspects of the discretionary height increase.
    The good news for the community is these involve the granting of a privilege, which should be earned. The 2008 ordinance allows a 140-foot building height (plus up to 20 feet of decorative features), but only “contingent upon satisfaction of specified criteria.”
    Importantly, this option increases only height, not the number of housing units permitted.
    In the instance of the El Ad site, assuming that the city is inclined to consider a master plan amendment and a height above 100 feet, the city and the community must weigh discretionary exceptions against the value of “proffers” offered by the developer. The following is my “wish list” of such proffers.
    Threshold size. Should the city modify its master plan to incorporate this nearly 9-acre site, I would prefer to see a threshold, of perhaps 5 acres in size, before such consideration. This would be comparable to the minimum 2-acre district size set under the 2008 ordinance.
    Increased building setbacks from the (Boca Raton Resort & Club) golf course, Townsend Place and Southeast Mizner Boulevard.
Vehicular traffic mitigation. Alignment of the primary point of vehicular access with an entrance to Royal Palm Place across the street, creating a controlled four-way intersection. The existing Townsend Place primary entry should be relocated to the north, to this new intersection. Traffic calming, deceleration lanes and safety features should be evaluated and implemented.
    Provision of a safe pedestrian crossing of Southeast Mizner Boulevard to and from Royal Palm Place, for Townsend Place as well as the El Ad project, either by crosswalks or pedestrian bridge.
    Provision of sufficient additional right of way, to permit a four-way intersection and future creation of a “roundabout” or cul-de-sac on Southeast Mizner Boulevard, at the above primary point of entry.
    Provision of easements, hardscape and landscaping of exceptional quality within and outside the perimeter of the project site, the Resort golf course, Townsend Place and Southeast Mizner Boulevard.
    Contextual, vernacular architecture, vetted by local design professionals.
    Green design: LEED certification, for passive/active solar design, recycling and storm water mitigation.
    Open space and open sky. Height concessions tied to a high standard of corresponding open space, with provision for maintaining offsite “view shed” resources at adjacent properties.
    I also recognize one of the worst-kept secrets in Boca Raton: that James Batmasian will soon follow this project with other proposed residential high rises at his Royal Palm Place. It is hard to imagine that he will not also seek higher density and heights.
Hopefully, both El Ad and Batmasian will be incentivized to contribute to a coordinated, optimal development plan, eventually encompassing over 1,500 residential units at Townsend Place, Mizner on the Green and Royal Palm Place, and also in the nearby Mark, Palmetto Place, Tower 155 and my own 200 East.
    If we can’t hope to stop the permitted development intensity, let us at least try to channel it into its best possible form.
John G. Colby, AIAE
Boca Raton

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