By Steve Plunkett
Boca Raton City Council members are shrewd negotiators, it turns out.
Barely a month after the Hillstone Restaurant Group withdrew its proposal to build an eatery on the city-owned Wildflower site, it’s back at the negotiating table.
“Hillstone continues to believe the property is ideally suited for one of its signature restaurants,” Glenn Viers, the group’s vice president, said in a Nov. 24 email to the city. “We also feel one of our Hillstone Restaurants would be economically advantageous to the city while achieving the broadest enjoyment for the public.”
Council members immediately adopted a wait-and-see attitude when Viers wrote Oct. 22 that Hillstone was no longer interested in making a deal.
“I’ve been in business,” Councilman Scott Singer said at the time. “Sometimes when you get a letter saying we’re no longer negotiating, the next thing that happens is negotiations continue.”
Boca Raton bought the 2.3-acre parcel on Palmetto Park Road in 2009 for $7.5 million so residents could have access to the Intracoastal waterfront. It then decided to lease the land, the former site of the Wildflower nightclub, to a restaurateur.
Hillstone originally proposed paying $500,000 a year in base rent with a 5 percent increase every five years and 5 percent of any profits over $10 million going to offset property taxes. The city countered with Hillstone paying the same base rent but with a 2 percent increase every year.
Hillstone then suggested it pay $600,000 in annual rent but be given a $250,000 offset for property taxes. The city proposed a face-to-face meeting, and the restaurant group announced its withdrawal.
In the latest letter, Viers said Hillstone would pay at least $600,000 in base rent or 5 percent of gross profits, whichever is greater, but the city would be responsible for property taxes. The company’s plans do not include a dock, he said.
“Hillstone would not, however, object if the city desired to install and maintain one … along the southern portion of the shoreline which will not affect the (diners’) views of the Intracoastal,” Viers wrote.
The letter does not specify which brand of restaurant Hillstone would build. The group already operates a Houston’s Restaurant west of Interstate 95 in the city. Its other brands include the Palm Beach Grill and a Hillstone in Coral Gables.