Robert Comparato offers to eliminate the development rights for 2500 and 2600 North Ocean and to provide $51.5 million in cash in exchange for Ocean Strand, 15 undeveloped acres straddling State Road A1A. He says the money could fund the proposed Boca National golf course and renovations for Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. Coastal Star Graphic/Google Earth
Plan for west of A1A comes with provision to preserve two beachfront parcels
By Steve Plunkett
Developer Robert Comparato is offering $67.5 million to buy Ocean Strand, 15 undeveloped acres straddling State Road A1A from the ocean to the Intracoastal Waterway.
In an unsolicited proposal to the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District, which owns the property, Comparato says he “holds or will hold” contracts to purchase 2500 and 2600 N. Ocean Blvd., two beachfront parcels that were denied variances this year to build four-story residences.
Comparato proposes exchanging the two parcels for Ocean Strand and giving the district $51.5 million in cash — enough, he says, to build a new golf course, expand and renovate the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, and create a new “Parks for All People” inside Spanish River Park.
A five-star 171-room hotel, 110 condominiums, 30 villas and 35 boat slips would be built at Ocean Strand in Comparato’s plan. The purchase price would be reduced on a per-unit basis if his Compson Boca Group LLC were not able to win needed government approvals.
The Ocean Strand property east of A1A would be “deed restricted so as to prohibit any use thereof for purposes other than beach-related uses and beach access,” the proposal states.
The proposed deal would enable the district to “ensure that the 2500 property and the 2600 property will remain undeveloped,” the offer continues.
Beach and Park District Chairwoman Susan Vogelgesang, who received the proposal Sept. 11, handed out copies to commissioners at the end of their meeting that night. She said she would also forward copies to the City Council.
“I have not read it,” she said. “I don’t think that this is for us to agree on right now. I think it should be something that the city sees, and we negotiate with the city.”
Commissioner Steve Engel, who in the past has said Ocean Strand would be privately developed “over my dead body,” repeated his opposition.
“It’s got to be rejected out of hand,” Engel said.
When the district and council met jointly Sept. 12, Andrea Stekloff, who lives in Boca Towers just south of Ocean Strand, wanted reassurances the property would remain public land.
“Do you plan on selling any other properties in order to fund this golf course?” she asked.
“Absolutely not,” Engel promised.
But at the district’s Sept. 25 budget hearing, Vogelgesang was less committal.
Gabriel Banfi, another Boca Towers resident, told district commissioners he reviewed their enabling legislation to see that the district could “borrow money, do a number of things.”
“But I don’t find the word ‘sell.’ ... Is the board in a position to sell Ocean Strand?” he asked.
“We have not even discussed it in an open forum,” Vogelgesang said. “So that will be a subject for probably our Oct. 7 meeting.”
Comparato’s figures set aside about $27 million for the golf course and about $24.8 million for Gumbo Limbo. He is valuing 2500 and 2600 N. Ocean Blvd. together at roughly $16 million.
His $67.5 million offer nearly matches the $67.6 million private appraisal the Beach and Park District got for Ocean Strand in June.
District commissioners asked for the appraisal with the thought of selling the property to the city and using the funds for the proposed Boca National golf course on Northwest Second Avenue north of Yamato Road and for Gumbo Limbo.
The district bought Ocean Strand in 1994 for $11.9 million.
A proposal in 2010 to build a private cabana club on the site sparked a firestorm of resident outrage. Ú