By Tao Woolfe
The city has again given an extension to the developers of a restaurant proposed for the grounds of the historic Oscar Magnuson House — even though the project could cause the house to lose its historic designation.
The 30-day extension for the property at 211 E. Ocean Ave. was unanimously approved during the Nov. 13 meeting of the Boynton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency.
Developer Anthony Barber told city commissioners — sitting as the CRA board — that he and his partner were having trouble financing their restaurant project because of rising costs.
“The cost is not the cost we originally projected,” Barber said. “We have owner financing of $800,000, but the [construction] cost now is looking like $1.2 million.”
Making matters worse, Barber said, the cost of borrowing money has escalated.
“We’ve sought financing from a couple of places. Lending rates are terrible right now,” Barber said. “We need more time to get this going.”
About a year ago, Barber told the commission he wants to redevelop the Magnuson House into a 3,000-square-foot, full-service American-style restaurant consisting of the home and five shipping containers.
The restaurant would be open seven days a week and would be called Pauline’s, Barber said, to honor his grandmother.
The plans originally called for renovating the two-story Magnuson House for inside dining. Before completing that renovation, Barber said he planned to use the shipping containers for the kitchen area, walk-in food storage, restrooms, an artisan bar and a rotisserie grilling area.
In June, the CRA granted the partners a six-month extension to submit a site plan application. Barber has said he submitted two site plans to the city, but they were rejected for being incomplete.
Barber told the CRA board last month that he may have to ask the city to remove the Magnuson House’s historic designation — and its attendant restrictions — to make the project more acceptable to lenders.
“We hope to have something within two weeks,” Barber said, referring to word from lenders.
Barber, who also owns Troy’s Barbeque on Federal Highway south of Woolbright Road, told commissioners last year he has lived in Boynton Beach for 35 years and had always wanted to open a restaurant in his home city’s central downtown area.
During their most recent discussion of the matter, city commissioners seemed willing to give Barber an extension of up to six months, but Mayor Ty Penserga said he preferred giving a 30-day extension and revisiting the matter at that point, if necessary.
His colleagues agreed, as did Barber.
“I don’t want to waste anybody’s time,” Barber said.
The Oscar Magnuson House is a two-story wooden structure which was built around 1919, according to the city’s historic preservation program records. The building retains many of its original external features, including the wood frame double-hung sash windows, wood siding and exposed rafter tails at the eaves. Its big front porch has been removed.
The original owner, Oscar Magnuson, ran a fernery on High Ridge Road — somewhere between Gateway Boulevard and Hypoluxo Road, according to historical records. The ferns were packed in ice and shipped by rail to northern markets. Magnuson also grew and grafted mango and avocado trees.
Although originally designed as a single-family residence, the structure and the site were used as a commercial plant nursery in the 1980s, according to city records.
As envisioned, the restaurant would employ some 30 people, Barber has said. Barber’s partner, Rodney Mayo of the Subculture Group, has said he would provide about $1 million in financial backing. The partners’ development company is known as 306 NE 6th Avenue LLC.