Boynton Beach: Town Square partner describes minor changes, economic issues

By Jane Smith

One of the private partners in Boynton Beach’s $250 million Town Square project has requested some changes to meet financing concerns.
Developer John Markey told city commissioners on Sept. 5 that he plans for the private portion of Town Square to begin with construction of a five-story apartment building and a six-story parking garage on Southeast First Avenue.
His firm, JKM Developers, wants to change the private portion of the Town Square site plan to reduce the number of units in the south apartment building by 65 to 196 units.
“We redesigned those units to be larger and be more of luxury-type units,” Markey told commissioners.
The firm wants to add the 65 units to the 104 planned in the six-story apartment building on Ocean Avenue in the center of the project. JKM also wants to lift the 55-plus age restriction on that apartment building to take all qualified renters. The height of the two apartment buildings will remain the same.
The changes are minor and can be approved by staff, said Colin Groff, assistant city manager in charge of Town Square. Groff brought the changes to commissioners to keep them aware of what’s happening in the 15-acre project with E2L Real Estate Solutions.
The area is bordered by Boynton Beach Boulevard on the north and Southeast Second Avenue on the south.
Boynton Beach leaders hope the Town Square development creates a downtown with a mix of municipal buildings, a cultural center with a banquet hall, a museum, apartment buildings, a hotel and parks. The city’s estimated share is $118 million.
Ocean Avenue roadwork will be done in time for the historic high school to reopen as the cultural center in early November, Groff told the commission.
Markey predicted construction of the south apartment building and nearby garage would start in the fourth quarter of 2019.
“City National Bank has already committed to financing the parcels, but we want to see if we can get better terms,” he said. That financing effort will take four to six weeks.
The garage will be finished by June, Markey said, much quicker than the apartment building because of the precast construction method used for the garage. It will be ready when the City Center opens.
The latest plan has staff members moving into the City Center during the first week of May, Groff said. No commissioner asked where staff would park if the south garage is not finished in time. 
Vice Mayor Justin Katz pressed Markey for deadline times, asking when the central apartment building construction would start.
Not until the first or second quarter of 2021, Markey said. “We’re pushing the market here in Boynton Beach,” he said. “We can do that because we believe in the community. The problem lies in getting the financial world to believe that.”
Markey said his firm needs to finish the south apartment building and start leasing it before a lender would agree to finance the second apartment building on Ocean. “That’s the way the finance world works,” he said.
His company has not projected a start time for the north apartment building on Boynton Beach Boulevard, with retail on the ground floor and a nearby garage.
“We are trying to find a way to escalate the [north] garage because the hotel needs it,” Markey said. “We are working with staff to figure out a way to finance the garage.”
While saying he’s not the hotel developer, he knows that company wants to hit the market. The hotel’s developer is E2L Holdings, another partner in the project.
Katz asked about what else the city could do now to avoid future speed bumps that could slow the pace of Town Square.
“The biggest speed bump I see is the market demand for what we propose. I’m a believer. I’m here with an awful lot of money invested in the community and its future,” Markey said.
He also is concerned about rising construction costs.
“Beyond that, I worry about major things. Is there a madman in the White House who drops a bomb on Iran? I don’t say that to be political, but I say that because we’ve seen people fly airplanes into towers and the [economic] result,” Markey said.
Katz and Commissioner Christina Romelus thanked him for the presentation.
“I sit on the Discover the Palm Beaches [tourism] board. Its staff is singing our praises for doing the private-public partnership,” Romelus said.
Mayor Steven Grant said the commission needs to have a branding discussion for Town Square.
“We’re not a town and it’s not a square,” he said.

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