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Brightline scales back but plans move ahead

Brightline returned to Boca with scaled-back plans focusing on their train station and parking garage.

The company hopes to have a train station up and running by the end of next year, Jose M. Gonzalez, senior vice president of development for Florida East Coast Industries said at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Plans for a commercial site nearby were taken off the table, said Brian Kronberg, Brightline’s vice president for real estate development. What they do and when will “depend on the market,” Gonzalez added.

Brightline expects to invest $25 million on the project. The company plans to return in October with detailed plans for the proposed station just east of the community garden on Northwest Fourth Street. Brightline will pay for the garden relocation and design, working with the Junior League of Boca Raton. “Land by the children’s museum is a possibility,” Kronberg said.

A four-story garage could go on the Downtown Library’s parking lot. Speakers urged the company to move the garage further south. “We haven’t picked the exact location,” Gonzalez said.

Brightline will build the garage. The city will fund the passengers’ section. Brightline will pay for 58 free spaces in a separate entrance for library patrons, Kronberg said. All those spaces will be on the ground floor, he added.

The company will work with their designers to make sure the station meets Boca’s aesthetics standards, Kronberg added.

Brightline, a private high-speed rail company, wants to lease the property from the city. The station site was chosen to avoid crossing over two streets as the train platform is 850 feet, Kronberg said.

A pedestrian bridge from the station over Dixie Highway to Federal is planned.  Brightline said it will work with the city to find dollars from the state. They’ll also work with the company that owns the tracks to put a crossing at Jeffrey Street.

Despite a packed council chamber, the mayor said speakers didn’t necessarily reflect overwhelming public support for the project.

Jackie Reeves, speaking for Boca Chamber’s executive committee, endorsed the project. The train would connect the city to major destinations. It would attract businesses and jobs. And provide “greater access to a workforce and tourism,” without putting more cars on the road, she said.

Most speakers were from Library Commons development next door and Friends of the Boca Raton Public Library.

Commons’ homeowners were concerned about residents living too close to the garage. Patrons parking for free in their neighborhood to avoid garage fees were also raised.

Friends were concerned about young children, moms with strollers and seniors’ safety. And speakers raised the issue of the Downtown Library as a voting site in 2020, with thousands expected for primary and presidential elections.

Plans “look much better than they did,” said Friends’ president Cyndi Bloom. “But we’re concerned about their future projects.”

Mayor Scott Singer praised Brightline for continually meeting with both groups.

“We’re in the discussion phase,” he noted.

Council gave city manager Leif Ahnell direction to move forward.

By Marci Shatzman

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