By Mary Hladky
The Boca Raton City Council has made one thing very clear: The Mizner Park Amphitheater is safe — for now.
Media reports about a developer’s offer to build a 1,500-seat indoor performing arts center within nearly 30 city-owned acres around City Hall in exchange for building as many as 400 residential units where the amphitheater now sits sparked fears among some residents that the outdoor venue is facing the wrecking ball.
Not so, council members, sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, said at their Sept. 25 meeting.
“That is a beloved place,” Andrea Levine O’Rourke said. “Everyone needs to calm down. It is not going to happen at this point.”
“Just because someone makes an offer doesn’t mean we are entertaining it, let alone accepting it,” Scott Singer said.
“I will pledge there will never be a time when there is not an amphitheater or a venue where we can have the kind of events we are having now,” Robert Weinroth said.
The issue had not gone away by the CRA’s Oct. 23 meeting.
“There still seems to be some confusion,” Singer said. “It’s not going anywhere. We’ve consistently said this and we’ll keep getting that message out there because people are coming up to me concerned that our wonderful events, our free events at Mizner Park Amphitheater are going anywhere. They are not.”
Before there can be any response to the offer by The Related Group, the city must decide what should be built in the downtown campus where City Hall and the police station now sit. That process will take at least several more months.
“It is too premature to enter into those discussions” with Related until the council decides on the components of the downtown campus, Mayor Susan Haynie said in October.
“Everyone loves our amphitheater where it is,” she said. “At this time, it is where it will stay.”
Council members heard a report on Oct. 10 from consultant Song + Associates on what residents want the downtown campus to be. The consultant met with residents on June 21 to get their input.
The residents gave no clear verdict on the Mizner Park Amphitheater. A slight majority of 53 percent said it should be replaced by an amphitheater in the campus, according to the consultant’s report. But asked more generally about an amphitheater, 62 percent said they would like one in the campus.
Sixty-five percent wanted a performing arts center in the campus, and 93 percent wanted a parking garage. A large outdoor gathering place and a new community center drew majority support. Most wanted existing baseball fields and a tennis center moved out of the area.
But only 74 residents attended the meeting. To get more input, the council asked that an online survey be posted on the city’s website and social media accounts. That happened immediately after the meeting.
Another option has emerged for a performing arts center. Event producer AEG, which books acts for the Mizner Park Amphitheater, has proposed building one in the downtown campus and more recently at Countess de Hoernle Park on Spanish River Boulevard.
Haynie, who has met with AEG, said she does not support a performing arts center on Spanish River Boulevard.
“If we are going to have a performing arts center, it should be downtown,” she said.
Glenn Gromann, an independent consultant with Related, said the developer’s proposal was misconstrued.
“There never was a plan to get rid of the amphitheater, only to move it someplace else,” he said. “Related can easily put another amphitheater on the City Hall campus with the performing arts center.”
Offers, he added, “can be modified, amended or changed. Offers are flexible. There is a lot we can do.”
Related’s July 11 offer was to build the performing arts center and adjacent parking garage in the downtown campus. In return, the city would give Related about 3.6 city-owned acres in the northeast section of Mizner Park, where the developer would build residential units, retail space and a parking garage that the public could also use.
By Mary Hladky