which is expected to open in about a year.
By Sallie James
A historic 1920s bungalow tucked in the heart of downtown Boca Raton will be transformed into a rustic fish restaurant under a plan approved by the Community Redevelopment Agency.
Luff’s Fish House Restaurant, at 390 E. Palmetto Park Road, is expected to open in about a year, said architect Derek Vander Ploeg. The structure, which has a coral rock chimney, will need to be remodeled and updated to accommodate the eatery, he said.
“In its day it was a very significant house, given it was built around 1927,” Vander Ploeg said. “In order to preserve the character, we will preserve the outside skin. It will get new windows and new doors. It needs some tender loving care.”
The CRA unanimously voted to change the 2,717-square-foot structure’s designated use from retail to restaurant during its Oct. 24 meeting. Members said they weren’t concerned that the bungalow did not fully meet existing parking requirements, driveway design, and parking aisle width, saying it was more important to preserve the historic building.
“I wasn’t concerned about any of the building’s shortcomings,” said CRA member Mike Mullaugh. “We could have fewer parking spaces here because of the unique circumstances of this restaurant.”
Said Vander Ploeg: “The code really says you need to be able to prove you tried to conform as much as possible.”
Boca Raton pioneers Theodore and Harriet Luff, who moved to the city in the 1920s from East Orange, N.J., built the house, said Mary Csar, executive director of the Boca Raton Historical Society.
In its day, the house was quite a standout, she noted. The bungalow style, with coral rock on the porches and chimney, was once very common, but no more. The house is considered an “exceedingly rare survivor” and is unique in Boca Raton, Csar told the CRA members.
She called the restaurant use a “perfect adaptation” for a building that will be a “wonderful asset” for the downtown. “We believe having a restaurant in the Luff house is a wonderful use of this historic treasure — a truly unique setting on much-developed Palmetto Park Road,” Csar said. “It also is a great way to tell Boca Raton’s story to our new residents.”
Over the years, the structure housed many retail businesses, and was the first office of the Historical Society, Csar noted.
Investments Ltd. restaurateur Arturo Gismondi owns the property. He also is the owner of Trattoria Romana at 499 E. Palmetto Park Road and La Nouvelle Maison at 455 E. Palmetto Park Road. He entered into a long-term lease to operate Luff’s Fish House, Vander Ploeg said.