By Mary Hladky
Mill Creek Residential has abandoned its plans to build a 13-story luxury apartment project on a city block immediately south of the Brightline station.
Mill Creek’s proposal was notable as it signaled that the long anticipated redevelopment of the area, triggered by the new station, was beginning.
In its preliminary application to the city, the Boca Raton-based nationwide rental housing developer proposed 358 apartments, 6,502 square feet of retail space facing the station and 490 parking spaces. Amenities included an eighth-floor clubhouse and fitness center overlooking an outdoor elevated courtyard and a rooftop pool and sundeck.
For train passengers arriving at or leaving the station, the block between Northwest Fourth and Third Streets is their first view of the city. What they see is a car repair shop and a body shop.
“Our overall intent (is) to create an improved experience to residents and visitors to Boca Raton as they arrive on the Brightline,” the developer said in its application.
But Mill Creek withdrew its application last month, a city spokeswoman confirmed.
It also canceled sales contracts with the owners of four parcels totaling 1.4 acres that comprise most of the block, said Mike Massarella, co-owner of Boca Color Graphics on the south side of the block.
Mill Creek had asked to delay completion of the sales until the city created new zoning called a transit-oriented district in which its project would be located. But the city was slow to do so, and both Mill Creek and the property owners were frustrated, said a person familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified.
Massarella confirmed that the developer had repeatedly asked for sales contract extensions. After being under contract for a year and half, Massarella did not agree to another one, he said.
During that time, he said other potential buyers contacted him, but the sales contract tied his hands.
Mill Creek said in its application that the TOD could encompass a wider area than its project site. If that were to happen, additional developers likely would bring development proposals to the city.
Mill Creek officials did not return calls requesting comment on their decision to pull out.
Many South Florida cities wanted a Brightline station and competed with each other to get one. Boca Raton and Aventura emerged as the victors when the rail line agreed to increase the number of its stations to five from the original three in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
Mayor Scott Singer, who lobbied Brightline aggressively, said a station would boost the city’s economy as riders hopped off the train to eat, drink, shop and visit cultural venues. It also would make the city attractive to companies that wanted rail access throughout South Florida and an alternative to traffic-clogged Interstate 95.
City leaders also anticipated that the station would lure developers to build residential units for buyers or renters who wanted to live near the station.
Brightline originally wanted to develop land around the Boca Raton station. But the company set that aside in order to speed up negotiations to reach an agreement with the city to build the station.