Rendering by Garcia Stromberg/GS4Studios/Provided by City of Boca Raton
By Mary Hladky
In their longtime effort to win approval for a downtown luxury condominium, the developer and architect for the proposed Mizner 200 have revamped the project’s design once again.
The redo, unveiled at a Dec. 20 Community Appearance Board meeting, goes further than the previous design to divide the project into three sections and give it a more open look.
Embracing suggestions made by CAB members at a Nov. 1 meeting, architect Peter Stromberg of Garcia Stromberg/GS4Studios has incorporated townhomes at ground level, added pocket parks and more shade trees along the front of the building, pushed the central section farther back from Southeast Mizner Boulevard, varied the roof line and opened up more space between the southernmost building and the neighboring Townsend Place condominium.
CAB members praised the changes and the willingness of Stromberg to work with them. Most agreed, though, that they would like more minor changes.
“This interpretation is way better,” said member and architect Jessica Dornblaser.
Member John Kronawitter, also an architect, pushed back at the notion that the project is not enough in keeping with the city’s signature Addison Mizner architectural style.
“Do we want all our buildings to look like a Mizner knockoff?” he said. “Come on. This is 2016. We have to move forward. We can’t stay in the past.”
But the project’s hard wall of opposition from neighbors was not breached.
Residents of Townsend Place to the immediate south showed up in force to continue their assault on the 380-unit Mizner 200, saying it would block their views and sunlight and reduce their property values. Even with the changes, they said the project is too massive.
“They have tried to make this very enormous building seem less enormous,” said BocaBeautiful president John Gore, a Townsend Place resident. “It is still an enormous building.”
Investments Limited, the largest owner of commercial properties in downtown Boca Raton, which went public with its opposition in June, also blasted the project as too large and in violation of the city’s urban design policy.
“It is a solid wall,” said Robert Eisen, a land use consultant with Investments Limited. “It needs to be broken up and opened up and we will be happy.”
Investments Limited, a political heavyweight led by James Batmasian, is planning a complete makeover of its Royal Palm Place, a 14-acre shopping and dining destination across the street from Mizner 200. The residential component of its mixed-use project would compete with Mizner 200.
After the meeting, Eisen said Mizner 200 would block views from Royal Palm Place.
The project has become a rallying point for residents who fear downtown overdevelopment and the loss of the Mizner style. The most vehement opposition has come from Townsend Place residents, a number of whom are active in the BocaWatch and BocaBeautiful anti-overdevelopment groups.
Conspiracy theories weren’t far from the surface at the meeting.
BocaWatch posted comments on its website from Gore and George O’Rourke, the husband of City Council candidate Andrea O’Rourke, complaining that the CAB’s review of Mizner 200 was scheduled for the same night as the Boca Raton Bowl football game. They implied this was a deliberate attempt to reduce the number of people speaking against Mizner 200.
CAB Chairman Mark Jacobsen said he received emails implying Mizner 200 was slipped onto the agenda at the last minute, and he denied that. A city staffer said developer Elad National Properties, which now rents apartments on the property, had followed normal procedure to get on the agenda.
But no one had an explanation for why the city posted the agenda on its website just one day before the meeting, giving residents little notice.
“This is not a ploy by the applicant,” said attorney Bonnie Miskel, who represents Elad.
The CAB will consider Mizner 200 again, probably in February. The project also must undergo review by the Planning and Zoning Board before the City Council, sitting as Community Redevelopment Agency commissioners, will make the final decision on whether the project can be built.
Immediately after the meeting, Stromberg said he did not know if further design changes would be made.
Speaking to residents at the meeting, Stromberg and Miskel said they had met with Mizner 200’s neighbors, including Investments Limited, and taken into account their concerns in making design changes.
Miskel, who also represents other developers, said, “We have met with more people on this project than any other project downtown. We are not ignoring anyone.”