Mizner Arts Center faces setback and Boca Greenlights hotel project

The wait for Monday was a key step towards a performing arts center in Mizner Park.

Now the deal is in serious doubt.

Four months ago, it emerged that Boca Raton and the Center for Arts and Innovation (TCA&I) had resolved any remaining issues with the group’s proposed land rental next to the Mizner Park Amphitheater. The city has scheduled two special meetings on Monday to formalize the agreement.

Then Deputy City Manager George Brown told city council members that staff objected to TCA&I’s terms to seek “actual damages” if the city failed to honor the lease. This issue apparently surfaced during final discussions between the city’s legal team and TCA&I attorneys.

City Attorney Diana Frieser said there would be “no limits” to the city’s legal exposure and added that she could not support such language. After which, Ele Zachariades, who represents TCA&I, said board approval of the staff position would be “a deciding factor”.

Hold the champagne.

According to the proposal, TCA&I would renovate the amphitheater and combine it with an arts venue on the vacant site to the east. The group would also operate the amphitheater, with the city having 24 days to hold its own events.

Andrea Virgin is the president of TCI&A. She led the five-year effort towards the establishment of the center. Virgin said an example of a breach that could cause harm would be for the city to host an event with a sponsor in competition with a center donor. Think Coke and Pepsi.

But Virgin thinks much more ominously and she cites a close example. “What if the town went rogue and tried to evict us?” It happened last year in Delray Beach at Old School Square for the Arts.

Virgin also imagined a scenario in which the city would commit many small infractions, amounting to “death by a thousand cuts”. TCA&I, Virgin said, is talking to eight-figure donors with sophisticated legal teams. These people will not contribute, Virgin said, without adequate protection of their investment. The city’s request is “unreasonable”.

Mayor Scott Singer raised another issue. Under the lease, TCA&I must meet its fundraising goals before construction begins. These targets are based on a percentage of costs.

Singer noted that pandemic-related supply chain and labor issues have driven up construction costs. He wondered if the formula could leave TCA&I short, forcing the group to ask the city for money – which the council refused to give – or build a smaller project.

After several attempts to negotiate the damages issue, the board deferred the matter to September 28. Andy Thomson said staff alerted the board to the dispute, but due to procurement rules, board members were unable to discuss the matter until Monday’s meeting.

Yet what happened was a surprise. Andrea O’Rourke, the project’s strongest supporter on the council, said: “I expected that we could achieve this.

When we spoke on Wednesday, a clearly angry Virgo said two things needed to happen to close the deal:

“We have to compromise on the damages.” The legal teams will speak. “I’m not going to have a loose noose around my neck, wondering when the city is going to tighten it.”

Also, referring to Singer’s comments, “We have to stop moving the goal posts.” The singer was “asking 11th hour questions” that he could have asked “months ago”. Because fundraising goals are percentages, Virgin said, TCA&I will raise more if costs dictate. She noted that the group had to present a credible cost estimate and therefore could not belittle the city.

Virgin said TCA&I raised $14 million and expects another $25 million once the city approves the lease. The group has an additional $3.5 million in “working capital,” Virgin said, and is “fully funded for the next two years of work.” TCA&I spent almost $2 million to reach this point.

Monday’s comments, Virgin said, left her needlessly reassuring donors. Responding to comments from council members that they were protecting the city’s interests, Virgin said that if the deal fails, “Think of all the hotels that won’t have their heads in the beds and the restaurants that won’t have no customers and Brightline visits won’t happen and property values ​​won’t increase Is this in the interest of the city?

ARC approves hotel at Royal Palm Place

Earlier Monday, City Council, acting as a community redevelopment agency, approved an extended-stay hotel in part of Royal Palm Place.

The 144-room facility will be on the approximately one-acre site bounded by the Federal Highway, Southeast Second and Third Streets, and Southeast First Avenue. James Batmasian, owner of the site, will then integrate the hotel into the Royal Palm Place, which he also owns.

Compared to previous proposals for the downtown Hyatt Place and Mandarin Oriental hotels, there has been relatively little discussion. Councilor Monica Mayotte asked for conditions to ensure that the hotel would not be converted into an apartment or condo. Other conditions related to design and practicability. Following downtown architectural guidelines, the hotel can stand 160 feet tall.

Overall, however, board members viewed the hotel as complementary. It could compete with nearby apartment complexes where people rent for a year so they can stay for a few months during the winter.

“I think it will be a nice addition to downtown,” Thomson said. O’Rourke said, “I hope it brings something special.”

Tuesday’s primary results

Tuesday’s primary narrowed the field for November’s general election.

Joe Budd is the Republican candidate for US House District 23, which includes Boca Raton. Ted Deutch retires to become executive director of the American Jewish Committee. Budd beat six challengers.

The GOP’s five-way race for US House District 22, which includes Delray Beach, will likely face a recount.

Dan Franzese and Deborah Adeimy finished one-two. On Wednesday afternoon, they were separated by 0.38%. Anything less than 0.5% goes to an automatic recount. If the margin is then 0.25% or less, a manual recount will follow. The winner will face incumbent Lois Frankel.

Highland Beach Commissioner Peggy Gossett-Seidman won the Republican nomination for Florida House District 91, which includes Boca Raton. Thomson is the Democratic candidate. Steve Byers became the GOP nominee for Florida’s Senate district, which includes Boca Raton and Delray Beach. He takes on incumbent Lori Berman.

Yvonne Odom recognized by Delray

Her granddaughter may be on the cover of ESPN magazine—Coco Gauff: The New Look of Greatness—but Yvonne Odom was a Delray Beach legend decades ago.

In 1961, she joined Seacrest High School, now Atlantic High. As City Commissioner Ryan Boylston pointed out at the Aug. 9 meeting, this meant Odom was forgoing the many extracurricular activities she had organized at Carver, which was then the town’s high school for black students.

Boylston proposed a proclamation that would name the first day of school in Delray Beach after Odom. Many residents have asked for it, Boylston said. Although his granddaughter is playing on one of the biggest sporting stages in the world, the pressure is nothing like what Odom faced 61 years ago.

Reduced charges in Boca Bash case

Cole Goldberg
Cole Goldberg; Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office photo

I wrote about Cole Preston Goldberg on Tuesday. He had been charged with attempted first-degree murder related to an incident at this year’s Boca Bash in April.

On Wednesday, prosecutors reduced those charges. Goldberg now faces one count of domestic battery by strangulation and one count of misdemeanor battery. Goldberg pleaded not guilty. A calendar call is scheduled for January 4.

William E. Bennett