By Mary Hladky
The city and the Boca Raton Arts District Exploratory Corp. are moving closer to inking a deal that would allow a $130 million performing arts complex to be built on city-owned land in Mizner Park.
City Council members made clear that they favor BRADEC as they brushed aside two rival proposals on May 10 and directed city staff to continue negotiations.
The city was legally required to request additional proposals because it would be leasing city land to BRADEC for many years if an agreement is reached.
Naftali Group, a New York City-based development company, said it would redevelop and redesign the Mizner Park Amphitheater and build a mixed-use project on an adjacent 1.8 acres of city-owned land. That could include residential, retail and offices.
But none of the company’s many projects has included a cultural arts center, Executive Director Gary Cohen said.
AEG Presents, a Los Angeles-headquartered national concert promoter and venue management company that provides programming at the amphitheater, said it would operate and do programming for the amphitheater and develop cultural venues on the 1.8 acres.
Both companies said they would not request any funding from the city. AEG Presents said it did not intend to share event revenues with the city, although this could be negotiated.
Their proposals were not specific. Cohen acknowledged being “late to the game,” saying his company only recently learned the city was accepting proposals and did not have time to present a more comprehensive plan.
BRADEC’s submission, in contrast, ran to 242 pages, including appendices.
After the presentations, a long line of BRADEC supporters urged council members to complete a deal with the organization.
All five council members said they favor BRADEC because it is a local company with ties to many of the city’s cultural organizations.
“I like the fact they are a community-based organization and they have support from our arts-based organizations,” council member Monica Mayotte said.
BRADEC has “unbelievable community support,” Deputy Mayor Andrea O’Rourke said.
“Your zeal and passion and support is clear,” said Mayor Scott Singer. “My concerns are financial. You have addressed that by forgoing city funds.”
“BRADEC. Let’s get going on that,” said council member Andy Thomson.
BRADEC proposes completely renovating the existing 3,500-seat amphitheater and adding indoor and outdoor performing arts spaces, a rooftop terrace and more parking.
This would be financed by donations from cultural arts supporters and corporations that have long wanted such a facility in the city.
The $130 million price tag includes a $12 million endowment, $4 million reserve and $4 million for working capital.
In its most recent submission, BRADEC said it has identified 147 “high-potential” donors, including 19 who have the ability to contribute well in excess of $1 million and 17 who could contribute at least $1 million. A majority have shown an interest in becoming involved in the project.
Another 359 potential donors don’t have a connection to the project but have a “philanthropic track record” in Boca Raton and Palm Beach County, the submission states.
In another Mizner Park matter, council members on May 11 gave the go-ahead to the Boca Raton Museum of Art to demolish the western portion of the colonnade that runs along both sides of the amphitheater.
Eliminating the colonnade will improve access to the museum and its sculpture garden. Museum officials also plan to add landscaping and new lighting and to repave the museum’s entryway.
The city is requiring the museum to put a fence in place when the amphitheater is hosting events to prevent people from slipping in without buying a ticket. The fence can be removed when it’s not needed.
Art museum Executive Director Irvin Lippman expects the work will be completed in September, just ahead of the Oct. 16 start of the Machu Picchu and the Golden Empires of Peru exhibition that begins its world tour at the museum.