By Mary Hladky
The developer of the luxury condo now rebranded as Alina Residences Boca Raton has cleared two hurdles in its effort to build the 384-unit downtown project in two phases.
The Community Appearance Board recommended that the Community Redevelopment Agency approve the phasing request by a 4-2 vote on Oct. 16, and the Planning and Zoning Board unanimously recommended approval without debate two days later.
Those votes set the stage for the CRA commissioners, who double as Boca Raton City Council members, to make a final decision on Nov. 26.
“We are very disappointed, and we don’t believe there was enough attention paid to the community at large and the impact of extending the building process as a result of phasing,” Norman Waxman, an opponent to the proposal who is a condo board member at Townsend Place, said after the planning board meeting.
Opponents of the phasing plan now will meet to “develop our game plan” to convince CRA commissioners to reject developer El-Ad National Properties’ request, he said.
Alina Residences, formerly known as Mizner 200, is one of the most contentious projects in the city’s history. Downtown residents complained that it was too massive and a symbol of downtown overdevelopment.
El-Ad made concessions on building design, landscaping and setbacks that eventually won over critics, and the project was approved after a flurry of last-minute deal making in 2017.
But tensions flared again earlier this year when El-Ad asked to build the project in two phases, add valet parking and to not fully complete a pedestrian promenade until the second phase was finished.
Critics cried foul. They said they had a firm deal with El-Ad, and now the developer is reneging.
The most vocal objectors are Townsend Place residents who live next to the project site, but they have an important ally in Investments Limited, a major downtown landowner which was among those who negotiated with El-Ad.
Their main complaint is building the three-tower project in phases.
“If phasing is adopted for the Mizner 200 project, we cannot find this acceptable,” Waxman told the planning board. El-Ad’s proposal is “a bait and switch,” he said, and “we believe in the adage a deal is a deal.”
City records and El-Ad’s submissions to the city state that it was to be built all at once. But Noam Ziv, El-Ad’s executive director of development, told The Coastal Star in September that El-Ad never intended to do that.
“It would saturate the market,” he said.
Waxman and other critics argued at the planning board meeting that the change would benefit the developer, but not city residents.
They fear that if the condos don’t sell well, the second phase will never be built. That would result in one condo tower next to the run-down Mizner on the Green townhomes that Alina Residences was to replace.
If El-Ad decides to sell the second phase property, Townsend Place residents won’t know what the new owner would do with the property.
“That is one of the reasons we are against phasing,” Waxman said after the meeting. “If they decide not to build phase two, we have no control over what would happen next.”
Robert Eisen of Investments Limited said in an email that the company “stands with the good citizens of Townsend Place and Boca Beautiful and does not support the revised plan.”
El-Ad’s request calls for 140 condos in one tower built on the northern portion of the nearly 9-acre site on Southeast Mizner Boulevard. Phase 2 would be 244 units in two towers on the southern portion adjacent to Townsend Place.
El-Ad attorney Bonnie Miskel told planning board members that the developer wants to build both phases but has the right to build only one.
“It is unfair to say we are changing the deal,” she said.
El-Ad agreed to changes to satisfy critics, and those changes stand, she said.