By Mary Hladky
The nearly five-year battle over a downtown luxury condominium is finally over.
The last hurdle was cleared Jan. 14 when Boca Raton City Council members voted 4-1 to approve the construction of 384-unit Alina Residences Boca Raton in two phases — a decision that clears the way for developer El-Ad National Properties to break ground.
Alina Residences, formerly known as Mizner 200, is one of the most contentious projects in the city’s history, drawing early complaints from downtown residents that its original plan was too massive and a symbol of overdevelopment.
Originally proposed as 500 condos in four towers rising as high as 30 stories, the nearly 9-acre project on Southeast Mizner Boulevard has gone through five major redesigns in an effort to win over opponents before ending up as three, nine-story buildings.
The final redesign won City Council approval in 2017, but El-Ad returned to the city early in 2018 asking that it be allowed to build the condo in two phases.
That request tore open old wounds suffered by residents of the nearby Townsend Place condo, the BocaBeautiful advocacy group and major downtown landowner Investments Limited, which thought they had reached a solid compromise with El-Ad in 2017 only to find out the developer wanted to change plans again.
Townsend Place residents objected to phasing because they would have to endure construction over a longer period. They also worried that the second phase might never be built if market conditions change, leaving them with half of the run-down Mizner on the Green townhouses on the site and uncertainty over what would be built if El-Ad sold the property.
Investments Limited feared that El-Ad might seek to change the design of the second phase in a way that would block eastward views from its Royal Palm Place across the street, which the landowner wants to redevelop. After another round of negotiations, the opponents got some of what they wanted.
Townsend Place residents dropped their objections to phasing, but got a guarantee that El-Ad would enhance landscaping in the southern portion of a pedestrian promenade fronting Alina Residences on Southeast Mizner Boulevard right away, rather than when construction begins on the second phase.
El-Ad also agreed to enhance landscaping between Townsend Place and Alina Residences.
Investments Limited was assured that Alina’s design cannot be changed when the second phase is built so eastward view corridors are maintained.
But City Council members, sitting as Community Redevelopment Agency commissioners, torpedoed additional requests from El-Ad.
Second phase construction must begin within 24 months after a certificate of occupancy is issued for the first phase, rather than the 40 months El-Ad wanted.
El-Ad also must provide a letter of credit or cash bond for the value of landscaping improvements so the city will have money to complete the improvements if El-Ad fails to do so.
Townsend Place residents, BocaBeautiful and Investments Limited told council members that they are satisfied.
“We have worked hard to ensure an outcome that preserves the integrity of the approval process and that is acceptable to all,” said Norman Waxman, a Townsend Place resident who is vice president of BocaBeautiful. “It was worth the effort.”
Robert Eisen, of Investments Limited, urged council members to approve the project. Describing Alina Residences’ architecture as “absolutely exquisite,” he asked El-Ad to complete the second phase quickly.
CRA Chair Andrea O’Rourke cast the sole vote against El-Ad’s phasing request, saying the City Council had approved building Alina Residences in its entirety in 2017 and El-Ad has not given firm assurances that the second phase will be built.
“We spent years with this project and it still keeps coming back to us,” she said.
“I am very disappointed in the process at this point.”
But council member Jeremy Rodgers was upbeat, saying objectors and El-Ad had successfully negotiated a compromise. “I see this as a really good win,” he said.
Mayor Scott Singer said the final deal is a “great compromise,” but chided El-Ad for fighting with city staff on numerous issues and not providing staff and council members with information in a timely manner.